A federally-funded study of Muslim-American attitudes toward terrorism "reads more like an advocacy brief than academic research drawing sweeping conclusions from insufficient evidence," writes Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Writing in Middle East Quarterly, Gartenstein-Ross, director of FDD's Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization, points to serious flaws in Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans, a report by researchers at Duke and the University of North Carolina.
One problem is that study, funded by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice, relies on contradictory sets of data. One consists of 120 interviews conducted in Houston, Buffalo, Raleigh-Durham and Seattle about American Muslims' anti-radicalization efforts and their attitudes about terrorism. Authors David Schanzer, Ebrahim Moosa, and Charles Kurzman concluded from those interviews that "Muslim-Americans do not support terrorism directed at the United States and innocent civilians."
The authors admitted that "some of our interviewees were less quick to condemn other acts of violence outside of the United States." But because the project was focused on domestic terrorism, they "did not attempt to gauge the extent of this support or probe interviewees on these issues."
The other set includes data on American Muslims who since 9/11 have either perpetrated a terrorist act or have been convicted, sought, or arrested in connection with a terror-related offense involving violence. But the study's appendix of "Muslim American Terrorism Offenders" includes perpetrators whose acts were solely related to violence outside the United States, such as 20 individuals involved with al-Shabaab's jihadist recruiting network.
"The failure to probe interviewees on attitudes directly related to the data set on terrorist offenses amounts to sheer incoherence," Gartenstein-Ross writes.
He points to numerous other flaws in the report which serve to downplay the radicalization threat. It cites the condemnation of the 9/11 attacks by Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi without mentioning his support for suicide bombings or his praise for Muslims who die "in a military operation aimed at expelling American occupation forces in the Gulf." It favorably cites a report by the Muslim American Society denouncing the July 7, 2005 London transit bombings without mentioning that the group's curriculum includes the works of Islamists who have advocated violence against the West such as Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb.
"Likewise, the authors uncritically quote a condemnation of terrorism issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations without noting the group's many ties to terrorism and extremism more broadly," Gartenstein-Ross writes.