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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jihad comes to Small Town USA

By Laura Mansfield, Associate Director, Senior Investigative Analyst

It happened again this week. I came out of the office to find a flyer under
my windshield wipers inviting me to a special informational presentation on
God and family values, and how to bring them back to the forefront in

I'm a parent so the flyer caught my interest. But as an analyst for the
Northeast Intelligence Network, my eyes were riveted to the address on the
flyer: the session was being held at a nearby mosque.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided it would be a good time for
some on site investigations of the mosque. In order to not attract undue
attention, I dressed conservatively, wearing a navy jumper with a long
sleeve white blouse, and low heels. I debated whether or not to put on a
hijab (head scarf) then decided not to; after all, I was going to "learn",
not to pretend I was a Muslim.

I checked the mosque schedule on the web, and discovered that there was
going to be an Arabic language session an hour before. So I showed up an
hour early. The imam met me at the door, and told me that the presentation
didn't start for an hour, and suggested I come back in an hour. Fortunately
I had anticipated this. I explained that since I had quite a bit of reading
to do for a class I was taking. "Can I just sit here and read?"

He hesitated a moment, then agreed. I sat in the back of the room, with my
book open, and made a mental note to remember to turn the pages every so
often, as I listened to the speakers in Arabic.

The first speaker was the head of the Muslim Students' Association at the
nearby university. Although I missed the beginning of the discussion, I
caught up quickly. He was talking about the problems he had encountered on a
recent trip, when TSA flagged him for extra screening. He joked about the
fact that they had stopped him for extensive screening. He had anticipated
that he would be screened and he had filled his carryon luggage with
printouts of the Qu'ran from the internet, and had 15 or 16 CD's labeled in
Arabic, and he had a notebook computer with him.

As he expected he was delayed; he thought it was very amusing that while
several TSA personnel were scrutinising is personal belongings that is
classmate from Jordan was able to walk through security, along with his
American girlfriend, without any problems whatsoever.

One of the men said, in Arabic "Blonde Americans are good for something!"
Another man advised him to be cautious, since there was an American woman in
the room. The Imam spoke up and told everyone that I didn't speak Arabic.

At that point another student took the podium. His name was Khaled, and he
began to recount his recent trip to New York City. Khaled and three of his
companions had gone to New York for several days in January. He told of how
uncomfortable his trip up to NYC had been. He felt like he was being
watched, and thought he was the victim of racial profiling.

Khaled and his friends were pretty unhappy about it, and while in New York,
they came up with a plan to "teach a lesson" to the passengers and crew. You
can imagine the story Khaled told. He described how he and his friends
whispered to each other on the flight, made simultaneous visits to the
restroom, and generally tried to "spook" the other passengers. He laughed
when he described how several women were in tears, and one man sitting near
him was praying.

The others in the room thought the story was quite amusing, judging from the
laughter. The Imam stood up and told the group that this was a kind of
peaceful civil disobedience that should be encouraged, and commended Khaled
and his friends for their efforts.

He pointed out that it was through this kind of civil disobedience that
ethnic profiling would fail.

One of the other men, Ahmed from Kuwait, gave a brief account of his friend
Eyad, who had finally gone to Iraq. Ahmed was in email contact with Eyad,
and hoped by the following week to be able to bring them more information
about the state of the "mujahideen" in Iraq.

As the meeting drew to a close, the Imam gave a brief speech calling for the
protection of Allah on the mujahideen fighting for Islam throughout the
world, and reminded everyone that it was their duty as Muslims to continue
in the path of jihad, whether it was simple efforts like those of Khaled and
his friends, or the actual physical fighting of men like Eyad.

As the meeting broke up, several women in hijab came in the room, and two of
them sat with me. They were very warm and friendly and welcoming, and
appeared to be clearly thrilled that I was there. They asked me questions
about who I was, and why I was interested in the session.

By the time the session began, there were half a dozen American women, four
of them African American. Where the previous session had definite
anti-American tones, this session was all American and Apple Pie. The
earlier session had been in Arabic; this one was in English.

The woman leading the session, Nafisa, told of the concerns she had
regarding her daughters in the public school system. She complained about
the influence of the MTV culture, and seemed concerned about the rampant
sexuality that pervaded all facets of American life, from TV to movies and
on into the school system.

She explained her personal solution - the local Islamic school, beginning
with kindergarten. Instead of worrying about her daughters dressing
provocatively and behaving inappropriately with boys, she talked about the
modest school uniforms that they wore, and the single-gender classes that
her daughters attended.

She then began to discuss Islam, focusing on the commonalities it has with
Christianity. The sales pitch had clearly begun. While in the previous
section, then men had quoted over and over again sura from the Qu'ran
calling for violent jihad, the women's session focused on the "gentler" side
of Islam.

The same Imam who demanded that the men continue in the path of jihad did a
complete 180 degree turn in this session, stressing instead the suras that
promoted the "brotherhood" between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. "After
all, we worship the same God, and follow the teachings in the books he gave
each of us. We are all the same, we are all People of the Book," he

The differences between the sessions were striking. Clearly the second
session was a recruiting session.

Were the women aware of what was being taught in the first session?
Certainly those women who spoke Arabic should have been.

The reason for concern is obvious: two different doctrines are being
promoted. One peaceful, friendly, warm, and fuzzy doctrine is being used to
draw people in, with a focus on the well-being of their children.

But the Arabic speaking sessions clearly have an anti-American tone.

It shows clearly that as much as we'd like to pretend it hasn't, Jihad has
reached small-town USA. This mosque isn't in Washington, DC, or New York
City. This is a small mosque in a small town in the deep south.

And if it's in this tiny little quiet southern town, it's probably in your
hometown too.

About the author: Laura Mansfield has over 20 years of experience dealing
with issues pertaining to the Middle East. She is fluent in written and
spoken Arabic, and has an excellent understanding of the complex cultural,
religious, and historical issues. She spent nearly 7 years living and
working in the region, for a wide range of clients including the United
States Embassy, the United States Agency for International Development, and
various international corporations. She was active in the embassy warden
system, acting as a liaison between the Embassy security office and her
employer during the days of the Beirut hijacking.

Her other areas of specialisation include web design and development, and
internet security. She is proficient in a variety of programming languages,
and has consulted for a variety of Fortune 100 clients throughout the past
decade. She is happy to add her efforts to the war on terror.


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