Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 24, 2013

Wanted: A new narrative with American Muslim communities, based on trust and mutual respect

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Christopher Bellavita on April 24, 2013

Mike Walker is a former acting Secretary of the Army, and former FEMA deputy director.

Yesterday on his twitter account — @New_Narrative — he posted the following 22 observations:

1) AQAP’s Inspire Magazine has been counseling homegrown jihadists to work alone & not tell anyone about plots. It may have worked in Boston.

2) The FBI has gotten so good at terrorism stings, the Boston bombers apparently closely held their plotting, not trusting anyone else.

3) The Boston brothers and their closely held jihad. Will this become the new face of terror?

4) Analysts had been saying homegrown terrorists would never be as effective as al-Qaeda operatives. The Boston brothers prove otherwise.

5) But remember my old caution: Global jihadists promote homegrown terror to tie down Western law enforcement while they seek to regroup.

6) But Islam is not the enemy. The terrorists are. They do not represent Islam, but a warped, narrow, essentially medieval interpretation.

7) Yet, global jihadists believe their strength is in their message that “Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended.”

8) The Boston brothers bought into the Al Qaeda narrative which seeks to inspire a small group of malcontents to do terror’s bloody bidding.

9) The US & the West are not at war with Islam. This is not a clash of civilizations nor a war of religions. Many Muslims believe otherwise.

10) Recent polls show Muslim views of the US are the lowest since 2008. We need a new narrative to effectively change those perceptions.

11) We also need more than “See something, say something.” We need a more effective outreach into American Muslim communities.

12) Only American Muslims, themselves, can effectively recognize warning signs when radicals in their midst are beginning to turn violent.

13) To be effective, our new narrative must be based on trust, mutual respect & must be a two-way street with American Muslim communities.

14) Canada’s approach with the Muslim community on the recent Al Qaeda train plot is a good example of how such outreach can be effective.

15) Homegrown terrorism is much more than a law enforcement issue. Don’t expect to eradicate it entirely. But it can be minimized.

16) And minimizing future Bostons is not solely a law enforcement responsibility. It requires a whole community approach.

17) Potential violent radicals must believe the US is not at war with their religion, but with terrorists who do seek to hijack Islam.

18) It would be a mistake to write Boston off as an anomaly. Clearly, very few American Muslims will become so radical as to become violent.

19) Yet, the number of homegrown terror cases continues to grow and Al Qaeda will seek to use Boston as their new recruiting tool.

20) A new narrative will not be easy to achieve. The war in Afghanistan continues. Drone attacks sometimes kill innocent civilians.

21) We must keep the most lethal terrorists abroad off balance, while also building a new era of trust in majority Muslim communities.

22) This is the new challenge in the war against the terrorists. Let the debate begin.



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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 24, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

Mike Walker’s comment worthy of deep thought and reflection. But I posted on another blog the question “Can Islam be reformed?” that drew lengthy comments from others. I asked the question because since there are no official final interpreters of either the Quran or Islamic doctrine and other 50 different types [sects?] of Islam how is it that this desert religion like Christianity and Judiasm refuses to condemn violence against innocents?

I ask the question out of ignorance not understanding of Islam!

Personally I don’t believe given limited resources and lack of sustainability religions spread largely by violence and ignorance perceived or otherwise of environmental and gender issues and resource limitations can be called anything but just another political effort to control behavior as if the world should not have progressed beyond the midevil world.

Perhaps technology is one of the culprits but that genie is long out of the bottle since humans learned to control fire and chip flint.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 24, 2013 @ 12:54 pm


I welcome and am ready to contribute to a fuller dialogue with and among Muslims, Buddhists, Unitarians, Orthodox, Catholic, Jews, Protestants, agnostics, atheists, scientists, mathematicians, cosmologists, and cosmetologists.

I agree with you that a whole community approach is helpful for engaging a wide range of risks.

I’m not sure — at least not yet — that any of this would have/could have reasonably been expected to assist us anticipate or prevent the Boston attack. Despite what the surviving brother is reportedly saying — per your point 20 — I’m not ready to confidently classify this as a jihadist or Salafist action.

So for now, mark me down as a strategic ally and a tactical skeptic.

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