LARRY KUDLOW: In a hair-raising number, the Pew Research Center reports on a new poll that as many as 1 in 4 young American Muslims condone suicide bombings against civilians, at least sometimes. This kind of home-grown radicalism is bloodcurdling scary, and we have got to dig in and get to the bottom of this story. Joining us: Steve Emerson, NBC terrorism analyst and author of Jihad, Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the United States; and Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Steve Emerson, this is a stunning thing. And there's some numbers here. You 're talking about 117,000 Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29, and then 6 percent of those over 30 would add 63,000 more. So you are talking about just about 200,000 folks who believe in suicide bombing. What do you make of this, Steve?
STEVEN EMERSON: Well, I think the numbers are absolutely frightening. And I 've been warning about this, and so have others, for a long time. And, unfortunately, the mainstream--in quotes--American Muslim leadership has been in denial. They 've contended that there 's only Islamophobia, that there 's a war on Islam. And in fact, there 's been a failure of the American Muslim leadership, because they portrayed the war against terrorism as a war against Islam. And that 's radicalized the youth, Larry.
KUDLOW: If I may, let me just ask Edina , if I may call you that. What is your response to Steve Emerson? And I guess I want to understand, where is the sort of moderate Muslim element that would try to close this sort of thing down?
EDINA LEKOVIC (Muslim Public Affairs Council): Well, they 're right beneath our noses. If we look to the headline of this survey, what it points to is Muslim Americans, mostly mainstream middle class, moderate, sharing American ideals and believing that hard work pays off in this country, that 's the headline on this story. When we look at the statistic about suicide bombing, it is indeed a disturbing one. But taken out of context, it 's even more frightening. You know, the University of Maryland did a poll just in December where they found that 1 in 2 Americans support, sometimes--with the same wording--they find it at least sometimes justified for innocent civilians to be targeted by bombings or attacks. I think that any sort of support, no matter what side it comes from, is absolutely outrageous.
KUDLOW: Well, I think...
LEKOVIC: And when it comes to the Muslim American community, Mr. Emerson has it all wrong.
KUDLOW: I think--I think you still have to...
LEKOVIC: Our condemnations of al-Qaeda, of suicide bombing, of terrorism, are on record, they are unequivocal. And that's the story of the mainstream Muslim community. We need to recognize and reinforce the mainstream rather than doing so with the marginal elements that we're all seeking to….
KUDLOW: Steve Emerson, we just this Fort Dix plot that was foiled, and this was a radical jihadist Muslim group. In fact, unfortunately, three of them were illegal immigrants. But putting all that aside, where does this come from? Does this come from the mosques, does this come from the radical schools, the so-called madrassas, and does this come from the imams preaching this kind of hatred? What are you going to do with 200,000 people who might believe this stuff?
EMERSON: Well, I think the numbers are probably understated, because to admit that you actually support suicide bombing, you know, takes a lot of intellectual honesty, so to speak, and I think that probably most people would not admit to that fact. And the reality is, you see the number of people that believe that Arabs did not carry out the 9/11 attacks, I think somewhere it 's like 40 percent. The institutional blame lies within the madrassa, the institutional leadership of the Muslim community, like MPAC, as well as the schools and the publications that appeal to the American Muslim public.
KUDLOW: All right, you all are coming right back. Stay right where you are.
LEKOVIC: Look, the...
KUDLOW: No, hang on a second. We 're going to take a brief commercial break and come back. I want to know what is the role of the imams in all of this. We 're for keeping America safe. Kudlow & Company, straight ahead. A very disturbing topic.
KUDLOW: We're With NBC terrorism expert Steve Emerson and Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Edina, I have no doubt that you are right, that the majority of Muslims living in the United States are moderates and peaceful. I don 't doubt that. But this is a case where the minority is probably more important than the majority for the damage that they can do. And I want to ask you about another...
LEKOVIC: Well, and that...
KUDLOW: ...another disturbing part of that poll. Five percent--5 percent--of the survey shows that they have a favorable view of al-Qaeda. Now, that is also incredible. How do you respond to that, and what do you do about it?
LEKOVIC: I 'll tell you exactly what we 're doing about it. I respond to it with abject horror, just as you do, and just as all Americans do. And it is not representative of the mainstream Muslim community. Five percent is a reality that we have to deal with.
But getting back to the other questions, what are we doing about it? Nobody has fought--working harder to fight terrorism and extremism than the Muslim American community. We work with all levels of law enforcement, we work with our communities. We have a national grass roots campaign to fight terrorism, that Mr. Emerson is well aware of, that is working with communities directly to ensure that extremism doesn 't creep into our mosques and our community centers. The FBI knows it, the Department of Justice knows it, and why folks like Mr. Emerson can 't recognize that is a puzzle to me because it 's being recognized out there. We have to get Muslims to be part of the solution, and we do that by recognizing their legitimate efforts.
KUDLOW: All right. Let me let Steve-- let Steve respond. Steve, what is your response to that? And I want to also put another number in. It says in this poll only 4 in 10 American Muslims say that they believe Arabs caused 9/11. Now, I don 't know who they think caused it, but, Steve, you know, we worry about the terrorist jihadists, the cells here in the United States ; these numbers are really huge numbers. What is your response?
EMERSON: Listen; let me read you just three different points here. One is the description of the 1983 Marine barracks attack. "Yet this attack, for all the pain it caused, was not in a strict sense a terrorist operation. It was a military operation." That was published by MPAC.
Number two, it described Mr. al-Arian, the head of the Islamic Jihad Network, as a role model.
And number three; this is something that Ms. Edina Lekovic should be very familiar with. "When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid, Osama bin Laden, as a terrorist, we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter, someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah 's cause and speak out against oppressors." This statement was made after the '98 bombing, and this was made in al-Talib magazine.
LEKOVIC: That 's absolutely absurd.
EMERSON: And that was Edina 's--she was editor of the al-Talib magazine when this statement was made.
LEKOVIC: Absolutely no. No, I was not. These are lies.
EMERSON: That 's not a lie! You were an editor.
LEKOVIC: No, these are absolute mischaracterizations. Mr. Emerson, your research is--your research is sloppy.
EMERSON: No, you were managing editor of the newspaper.
LEKOVIC: Your research is sloppy.
EMERSON: No. Were you not a managing editor of that newspaper?
LEKOVIC: And for you to--no. No, I was not.
EMERSON: You were not?
LEKOVIC: For your research...
EMERSON: You were not on the byline as a managing editor?
LEKOVIC: For your research--for your research to point out and to conduct this kind of character assassination is quite ridiculous.
EMERSON: Wait. Edina , were you a managing editor?
LEKOVIC: What we are talking about here...
EMERSON: Edina , were you a managing editor of al-Talib magazine?
LEKOVIC: I was a student at UCLA and I was the editor of the Daily Bruin.
KUDLOW: All right, we 're going to have to leave--we 're going to have to leave it there.
LEKOVIC: So that was the campus newspaper. What we 're talking about here...
KUDLOW: We haven 't solved the--we have to leave it there, Edina , I 'm sorry. We got to leave it there. We 're up against a hard break. I will only say that these are probably the largest numbers I 've ever seen about the potential for suicide bombers in the United States . And I think this story hurt the US stock market today. Steve Emerson, thank you. Edina Lekovic, thank you.