The Afghan refugees of Fremont, CA
Posted by Ann Corcoran on December 17, 2010
A reader sent me a very interesting and informative article written by Judith Miller for City Journal. It is long, but well worth reading to understand what is happening with one of the largest communities of Afghan refugees in the US. Although some are assimilating, one is left with the impression that this is a refugee group that is not really making it in America—-the country that took them in, but the country that is waging war in Afghanistan.
Please read the whole article, but here is one portion about the trouble brewing in Fremont.
The local police tread carefully with this secretive, suspicious community, whose experiences back in Afghanistan have made it understandably anxious about law enforcement. Most police clashes with Afghans involve what Craig Steckler, Fremont’s police chief, calls “cultural” issues. Soon after he became chief, he remembers, a gang of young Afghans tried to oust officers on patrol from what they called their “tribal lands.” “We had to spend some time reeducating them that no, actually, this was our territory and they had to respect our laws,” he says.
Domestic abuse of women is rising by the day, says Najia Hamid, founder and executive director of the Afghan Elderly Association, a community group, but Afghans resist reporting such incidents. Ditto child abuse, Steckler adds: Afghans are often surprised to learn that what they consider ordinary discipline can be a crime in America. Afghan gangs keep the police busy as well. Members of one gang, which called itself SAG, for “Save Afghan Girls,” took it upon themselves to protect the honor of young Afghan women by beating and harassing non-Afghans who tried to date them.
But Steckler’s most pressing concern must be the one that neither he nor the Oakland-based Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) would discuss: their efforts to monitor the Afghan community for signs of radicalization. At least two sources said that the FBI-led task force is investigating several Afghan and Pakistani residents of Alameda County—specifically, young men believed to have been friendly with or related to Najibullah Zazi. Earlier this year, Zazi—a 25-year-old Afghan-born Pashtun and naturalized U.S. citizen—pleaded guilty to plotting with al-Qaida to carry out multiple bombings in the New York City subway system. Zazi grew up in Queens, not California. But one of the Afghans said to be under JTTF surveillance is one of Zazi’s many cousins, a Bay Area resident said to have been in touch with him when he was traveling to New York to carry out the attack.
More broadly, the JTTF has been trying to assess how many young Afghans may be vulnerable to militant Islamism’s seductive appeal. Complicating the task is the difficulty of distinguishing potentially dangerous militants from those attracted by the broader, nonviolent wave of interest in Islam that is now filling the mosques and Islamic centers on Fridays, especially with younger Afghans. A recent debate on the role of Islam in modern American life sponsored by the Afghan Cultural Society, for instance, attracted an audience of 300, many of them young.
Although there appears to be disagreement about what role the mosques play in radicalization (some Muslim leaders are hiding that information), there is one line in this paragraph I really want all of us to focus on.
Where, exactly, would this radicalization take place? Qayoumi says that the community’s ten or so mosques, mostly Sunni, haven’t helped the area’s Afghans acquire a political voice and identity. Farid Younos, a professor of human-development studies and sociology at Cal State–East Bay, agrees that while local mosques “play a very important spiritual role,” most “tend to stick to religious rather than political issues, despite the fact that politics and religion are not separate in Islam.”
Most of us in the West, especially in America’s hyper-sensitive secular society, cannot wrap our minds around the notion that Islamic law (shariah law) is religious law used to govern nations and peoples. There is no separation of church and state in majority Muslim countries. So, as we at this moment try to eliminate even Christmas from the public square, many Muslims, if they had the power, would prefer we were governed by Allah instead of the US Constitution. They would have Allah in the public square (or more accurately, the mosque in the public square because they would never allow an image of Allah).
Homegrown terrorists increase in number
The problem of “homegrown” terrorism resulting from radicalization in the U.S. is one that law enforcement officials are increasingly worried about. According to a new study by New York University’s Center on Law and Security, 81 percent of the nearly 1,000 defendants in the 50 most high-profile terrorist plots prosecuted since 9/11 are homegrown Islamic militants. Of those prosecuted this year, more than half are U.S. citizens.
Just forget about the idea that Muslims are radicalized because of our war in Afghanistan, or our close ties to Israel, or because they are poor and not assimilating, those may be the superficial excuses, but at the very core of this is that we are engaged in a worldwide struggle over what form of government people should live under—a Constitutional government in our case verses a Shariah form of government. In a kind of one-two punch, some Islamic leaders are waging the war through stealth and the radicalized young are waging it through violence.
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