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How do mosques deal with radicalized members?

by AirTalk®

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Male worshipers at the South Bay Islamic Center mosque stand at prayer. Omar Shamout

FBI agents have begun questioning members of the mosque that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspected mastermind of the Boston Marathon bombing, attended and where he disrupted services on two occasions.

Leaders of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center told the Los Angeles Times that Tsarnaev visited the mosque only occasionally and didn’t believe the outbursts constituted enough evidence that he had become “radicalized.” Members of the congregation did tell Tsarnaev that he would be ejected if he interrupted services again. 

"It's really rare for someone to stand up and shout, it sort of breaks protocol is somebody interrupts the sermon, so it is something that will leave a mark in people's memories," said Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy and Programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "That kind of outward protest rarely happens, but it's a major indicator of where somebody is coming from, and that's by and large what we've see in American mosques that they have rejected extremists and have reported suspicious characters since 9/11."

Lekovic says that 40 percent of all terrorist plots thwarted since 9/11 have been the result of Muslim community tipping law enforcement off to suspicious activity. It is clear that American Imams have a unique advantage when it comes  to flagging possible Muslim extremism, but it's difficult to tell whether someone's criticisms will equal violent act.

"The challenge is, is this a person who is theologically militant or is this a person who is militant, meaning they are violent?" said Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Religious Leader of Orange County Islamic Foundation  in Mission Viejo. "As an Imam, I would have to make that assessment. What is not tolerated in our mosques is the whole idea of insinuating, suggesting, implying suggestions of violence, there is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to this.  

How do mosque leaders detect an inclination toward “radicalization” in their members? What is the definition of “radicalization”? What procedures are in place to deal with such members?

Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy and Programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council

Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, the Religious Leader of Orange County Islamic Foundation  in Mission Viejo; Director of the Mental Health Department at Access California Social Services

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