It seems like anytime someone talks about Muslims on the Web, everyone is bundled together as one radical mass. According to the panelists this afternoon at Online Extremism – and the Muslims Who Fight It
, people need to get smarter not just about who is radical and not, but what kind of radical.
So what should people really look for? "Violent radicalization, and that violent part is important," said Shaarik Zafar
, senior policy adviser with the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
. Since so many people (including policy makers) have so little grasp of Islamic scholarship and its myriad, complicated theological strands, they miss the big difference between the ascetics of Sufism and a bomb-building terrorist, like there is between a Quaker and a white supremacist.
"You can't kill and capture a website," said Frank Cilluffo
, director of Homeland Security Policy Institute
. He called Al-Qaeda
a brand more than an organization, and a brand name can be damaged like any other brand, by tackling and discrediting them. That meant not attacking Muslim religiosity on the web, but encouraging (without co-opting) Islamic scholars to highlight the intellectual bankruptcy and un-Islamic nature of some radicals: to find "a Tookie Williams
of terrorism." They exist, he said: several former spiritual advisers to Osama bin-Laden
have now renounced him.