Monday, October 6, 2003

The Muslim organizations that certify chaplains for the U.S. military have come under renewed scrutiny since the arrest of Army Chaplain Yousef Yee and two Muslim translators who worked with al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay — and that’s all to the good. The Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences (GSISS) and the American Muslim Foundation (AMF) were already being investigated, and it may well be that somehow Mr. Yee picked up his radical Islam from some contact with these groups. But so far another possibility has been overlooked, perhaps because its political incorrectness quotient is positively off the scale: The possibility that Yee was sincere when he denounced the September 11 attacks, and that his mind was changed by the Guantanamo prisoners themselves.

According to military intelligence veteran and former Guantanamo translator Bill Tierney, the prisoners at Guantanamo would frequently ask Muslim American translators and other servicemen how they could accept the infidel’s money. Mr. Tierney said that the prisoners “would know who the Muslims were, who spoke Arabic” among the American military personnel, “and would do everything to push their buttons.” Including using the Koran to convince them of the legitimacy of violent jihad? And using the Koranic command that Muslims must not fight against other Muslims (Sura 4:93) to assail the legitimacy of Muslims serving in the American armed forces?

We may never know. So far, these questions have been too hot for the military even to ask. The official position on terrorism seems to be that Islam is a religion of peace, terrorists have hijacked it and that’s that. The possibility that American Muslims — even West Point grads like Mr. Yee — could fall prey to the same hijacking is off their radar screen.

To the American officials in charge of Guantanamo, the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” are so far from residing in the same sentence that Mr. Tierney told me that he was forbidden during his time there from compiling a list of Koranic verses relating to jihad, despite the fact that those who were interrogating the prisoners specifically asked for such a list. And, despite the fact that such verses appear in abundance in the writings of Osama bin Laden and other radical Muslims around the world today. These are the writings which are being used as you read this to recruit terrorists on a global scale, and which were most likely used to recruit each of the Guantanamo prisoners into al Qaeda.

Who forbade Tierney from making this list? The American Army captain in charge of all the translators. This captain, an Iranian Muslim who came to the United States in his teens, claimed to have converted from Islam to Mormonism. But Mr. Tierney told me that he behaved just like the other Muslims at Guantanamo, faithfully complained to officials about any anti-Muslim remark, and even prevented Mr. Tierney from using the Internet after he went online to gather open source data to aid in an investigation. He shut down Mr. Tierney’s Koranic research by ordering the site manager (a Somali Muslim) to tell Tierney to desist.

This problem is bigger than Guantanamo. In my book Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West, I provide evidence of widespread anti-Americanism among American Muslims. Muhammad Faheed, a 23-year-old who lived in America from the age of 3, expressed these sentiments well when he told a Muslim Student Association meeting in New York: “We are not Americans, we are Muslims… . The only relationship you should have with America is to topple it!”

Are any Muslims with similar sentiments now serving with American forces in Iraq? There’s no way to tell. No one dares to ask.

Mr. Tierney also recounted to me an incident from his service in Saudi Arabia, when he drove an American Muslim civilian translator to a local mosque one Friday. Mr. Tierney stood outside listening to the sermon, which was carried to the overflow crowd by loudspeakers: “It is the duty of all Muslims,” cried the preacher, “to fight against Israel and those who support Israel!” This translator, Mr. Tierney said, worked for senior Air Force personnel, translating sensitive material — but the American government could not and did not ask him where he went to mosque. We are simply to assume that that sermon made no impression on the translator whatsoever.

The Guantanamo espionage cases demonstrate how important it is to root out politically correct wishful thinking about the causes of radical Islam. If there is any lesson to be drawn from the Guantanamo spy scandal, it is that the government’s refusal to acknowledge the true dimensions of the threat from Islamic radicalism could come at a cost far greater than anyone has yet calculated.

Robert Spencer is an adjunct fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.

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