Archive for February, 2012

A new post for Free Rad!cals, this time using the case of Umar Patek, the Bali bomber just going on trial in Indonesia, to explore some bigger themes about terrorist networks that I wrote about in an earlier journal article. I should add that it was also sparked off by the fact that I happened to catch late last week the National Geographic show Seconds from Disaster: Bali Bombing that highlighted a detail I had not really noticed before about the plot, and that was that a device also blew up in front of the US Consulate in Bali at the same time as the bombings. The show seemed to conclude that there was a connection. As usual reactions or thoughts welcome.

Peripatetic Jihadi

View more articles by Raff Pantucci

Filed under: Philippines, Terrorism

The case opens this week in Jakarta against Umar Patek, aka Hisyam Bin Alizein also known as “Demolition Man,” one of the supposed key bomb-makers in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed some 202 people. Captured just over a year ago in Abbotabad, the start of his trial is being referred to as that of the “last remaining” terrorists responsible for that attack, and therefore possibly bringing closure to that case. It also seems to be another nail in the coffin for his much degraded al-Qaeda affiliated network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the formerly menacing Southeast Asian terror network that was responsible for the Bali bombings and a number of other attacks on Western interests and Christians in the region.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to focus on Patek’s group (for that I would recommend the work of Sidney Jones of the International Crisis GroupZachary Abuza of Simmons College and Ken Conboy’s book The Second Front), but rather to focus on the individual as a figure within a terrorist network and use him as a case study for examination of different roles such individuals can play. My thinking was set off by a line in this excellent AP report that claims to draw on police interrogation and other documents that detail the “peripatetic life Patek led.” A truly global jihadi, Patek seems to have been fluent in English, computer savvy, recruited early into JI, and travelled extensively amongst radical groups across Asia setting up cells and support networks wherever he went. His role in the Bali bombing seems to have been as the explosives expert who arrived in Denpasar weeks prior to the attack to assemble the device, before leaving two days prior to the actual bombing.

But the question is whether we should view Patek as a lone wanderer who simply travelled through the parallel world of global jihadism, or whether we should see him as a key fixer whose movements reflected a calculated set of opportunities that all furthered his organisation’s goals. Or in other words, should we see him as a “middle manager” (as PeterRyan and myself laid out in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism) or is he in fact more of a Ramzi Yousef figure (the man responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who seems to have wandered the world seeing himself as something of an international playboy terrorist figure). The distinction is interesting as it serves to highlight the importance of the different figures within terrorist networks – the middle manager versus the itinerant fighter.

It is not immediately clear which group Patek falls into. Apparently recruited by fellow Bali plotter Dulmatin in the early 1990s/late 1980s, Patek claims to have been trained at a militant camp in Sadda province, Pakistan and then in Turkhom, Afghanistan from 1991-1994. He describes his courses as being “from basic to very difficult.” Following this, he returned to Indonesia from where he was dispatched to neighboring Philippines where he helped run a joint training camp JI established with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. According to regional expert Zachary Abuza, he helped build the camp into a major centre, and in 1999-2000, following the fall of President Suharto, he seems to have been part of a group of exiled JI leaders who came home to Indonesia from where he is believed to have helped in a number of bombings. In 2002, Imam Samudra, the man described as the “commander” of the Bali operation, asked him to help the group build a bomb. He moved to Bali and spent around a month there mixing explosives while fellow radical Dulmatin built the timers. He then left the island prior to the attacks and ended up in the Philippines with his wife and fellow plotter Dulmatin and his family.

According to one report quoting Dulmatin’s wife, they stayed with MILF helping train the group and providing a support network for operatives back in Indonesia until 2004 when peace talks between the MILF and government meant they could no longer host them. The men transferred themselves to the protection of the Abu Sayyaf group, another Philippine Islamist terrorist network. From here they continued to plot and help train networks until 2009 when they separately snuck back into Indonesia. Dulmatin appears to have decided that Aceh was an area ripe for establishing a training camp and set off to develop al-Qaeda in Aceh while Patek instead told investigators that he wanted to fight on a bigger battlefield and instead headed towards Afghanistan-Pakistan. A temporarily smart choice as Indonesian forces reacted rapidly and heavily to the news of al-Qaeda affiliate in Aceh, killing Dulmatin in a shoot-out in March 2010.

Using false identities, Patek and his wife snuck to Lahore sometime in 2010, though the details of his journey there are not entirely clear. One report pointed to him attending a mysterious meeting of Southeast Asian jihadists in Mecca in between. However, by early 2011 he was in Abbotabad where he was in contact with a known al-Qaeda operative whom Pakistani authorities had become aware of (or their American friends were watching and telling them about). Trailing this connector, Tahir Shehzad, the Pakistanis were first able to grab a pair of French jihadis who were heading to the lawless Northwest Frontier Province and then eventually catch Patek.

So we can see how Patek was a key plotter, bomb-maker, trainer, terrorist with connections to JI’s networks as well as al-Qaeda networks in Pakistan. But does this make him a “middle manager” or something else? In our previous article, Peter, Ryan and myself define the “middle management” in al-Qaeda as:

 

The middle management combines several of the characteristics of the top leadership and the grass-roots. Like the top leadership, middle managers are experienced and skilled, and maintain contact with members of the leadership. They may have met bin Laden, but do not necessarily have a close, personal relationship. Importantly, they are not permanently based in the tribal areas but have returned to their home countries or other non-battlefront states, sometimes travelling back and forth, building support networks and raising money for the global jihad. Like the grass-roots, then, their outlook and ideology is global but most of their activities are focused locally.

 

In many ways Patek would fit this profile: he was clearly in contact with top leaders (it would be surprising if his presence in Abbotabad, where bin Laden was killed was merely a coincidence, and the fact he was able to hide for so long in Indonesia with such a substantial bounty on his head must have meant he was well connected there), he was widely travelled and helped establish support networks for his organization, and was certainly a skilled and experienced warrior.

But the distinction of him from the “middle management” community comes into play when we focus on him as a figure who travelled around a lot aligning himself with whatever local terrorist network he was able to connect with. Clearly, his first allegiance lay with his home group, JI, but he seems to have been at ease building up MILF and Abu Sayyaf – though in both cases he appears to have also been supporting JI networks from a distance. However, when his old comrade Dulmatin asked him to join him in Aceh, he declined, instead wanting to join the jihad in Afghanistan. Something suggestive of a personality more inclined to jihadist activity in support of a global movement than the maybe more parochial Indonesian focus suggested by establishing operations in Aceh. Seen in this light, we can view Patek as part of the community of itinerant jihadists to have emerged from the mess of Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s focused on bringing murder and mayhem wherever they could in advance of their vision of violent Islamism. Travelling around Southeast Asia, Patek provided support and his bomb construction skills wherever he could; aiding whichever group he was with at the time.

The importance of this distinction is not simply academic. The “middle manager” figure can be hard to identify, but is crucial in providing connective tissue between a radical group’s leadership and the warriors in the field carrying out operations, while the freewheeling itinerant jihadist is a dangerous figure who simply has to be tracked down and captured. The latter figure can sometimes act as a “middle manager” but is a far more operational individual who is dangerous as a highly trained terrorist with a global grudge. The middle manager probably lacks this operational edge, but this will make them a harder figure to identify.

Of course, the specifics of Umar Patek’s case may come out further in the course of his trial. His long career and close affiliation with various terrorist networks point to an individual that is best kept off the streets – whether he was a “middle manager” or something else.

There are two unrelated loose ends to Patek’s tale I will end on. Specifically, his capture in the same town as bin Laden is a curiosity and makes one wonder whether he was on his way to meet the leader or whether al-Qaeda simply use the city as a way point with the junior leadership having no idea that they are in the same city as their leader (something that would be a particularly audacious approach to protecting bin Laden). I wonder if more on this will ever come out. And secondly, whatever happened to the two Frenchmen who were supposedly captured prior to Patek’s capture by following the same courier that led to Patek? The story of his capture is still a bit murky, but from what I can tell, those two individuals (described as “of Pakistani origin [and] the other described as a white Muslim convert”) are still out there somewhere, presumably in custody. If anyone has come across any stories about them, please feel free to send them my way.

 

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A new article in today’s 东方早报 (Oriental Morning Post), a daily paper in China that I write a semi-regular column for. This was intended to come out last week talking a bit about China’s growing problems with citizens abroad and the dangerous places they are, and was meant to be pegged to the kidnapping the workers in Sudan, but it took a bit longer than expected. Consequently, there is no mention of the Syrian veto, which I might have added some comment on. Maybe a short piece later this week on that topic. But in the meantime, I have pasted the English I submitted below, and the Mandarin version below that. The title of this post is the title they ended up going with.

Why Do They Hate Us?

This has been a busy week for Chinese concerns abroad. In Egypt a group of 25 men were kidnapped and then released as part of a local dispute, while in Norway a court case was concluded in which the plotters had, amongst other targets, discussed aiming at the Chinese Embassy in Oslo, and in Sudan a group of 29 Sinohydro employees languish in custody under the “protection” of rebels. Chinese citizens and interests seem to increasingly be coming under target abroad, an unavoidable reality that offers China a moment to finally come out from its shell and become an active player in global affairs.

None of the scenarios listed above is particularly new. We have seen numerous Chinese workers and citizens toiling in foreign lands get into trouble before now. One need only look back last year to the over 30,000 Chinese workers who had to be evacuated from the chaos in Libya, and the thousands of others rescued from Egypt and Tunisia. In part this is the result of the fact that Chinese workers are increasingly finding themselves going to more dangerous parts of the world to dig for resources or build infrastructure and in part it is because there are simply so many Chinese workers now being sent all around the world. But in addition, it is because people now realize that snatching Chinese citizens is something that will guarantee getting attention.

This is the darker side of becoming a global power. Becoming the world’s second largest nation by GDP is something to be proud of, but it is also going to attract a certain amount of unwanted attention. This comes from people who are angry and feel they are missing out, people who are looking for a quick buck and see that China is now flush with money (and therefore see Chinese workers as rich pickings), but also people who have causes that they want global attention for. It used to be that if you wanted to get headlines for your cause, you had to snatch a group of westerners (look at the unknown numbers of Europeans being held by al Qaeda linked groups and criminal networks in North Africa) – nowadays, it is clear that Chinese workers will guarantee you the same sort of attention.

In something of a self-propagating cycle, this increased attention comes in part as a result of increased Chinese government efforts to go in and save citizens that have gotten into trouble in dark corners of the globe. Since the workers were snatched in Sudan the story has been front-page news in China, forcing pressure on the Chinese government to go and do something about it. Teams have been dispatched by Beijing while news outlets churn out news and Weibo is full of people discussing the fate of the group and evaluating the government’s response. All of which is having the effect of bringing attention to the group in Sudan who had kidnapped the Sinohydro workers, which is exactly what they wanted.

The Chinese officials that have been sent out to resolve this issue will find themselves being involved in a local conversation that China has been part of for a while. For selfish reasons of investment protection, China has long played a constructive role in trying to bring resolution to Sudan’s problems, and these previously nurtured contacts will no doubt help bring this latest situation to a close. And this reality highlights the very shifting nature of China’s role in the world and the long cherished “non interference principle.” Clearly the time has not come for China to start to gallop around the world asserting itself, but the time is happening that China is being forced to play a role in world affairs if only to protect its increasingly broad and diverse interests.

China is now seen as a global power. This reality has two results that come with it: a domestic audience who increasingly feel as though their government should be doing more to advance and protect their interests in the world, and a certain amount of antagonism globally, as China becomes part of the “resented face of globalization” as one American academic put it a couple of years ago. All of which requires China to be actively engaged in international affairs to ensure that their interests and people can be protected globally.

None of this is to call for China to start actively interfering in others affairs, but clearly a deeper understanding and engagement of the world is important. Rapid response teams need to be developed that are attuned to local issues that can be deployed to help citizens in distress and local embassies need to ensure that they have a good sense of how many citizens are actually in their area. One problem to have emerged from the Arab Spring last year was a sense that Chinese ministries had no clear idea of how many citizens were actually working in some of these countries – getting a grasp on this is important in figuring out how to prepare. In addition, China needs to build on its already positive forward posture taken with the anti-piracy missions off Somalia and its activity in peacekeeping operations globally to establish a more cooperative approach to its involvement in international missions to address global problems. China clearly benefits from aspects of the security umbrella that the United States and other western powers project, contributing more to these efforts is something that would be in everyone’s interests.

But there is a deeper psychological aspect to this question. Not the argument that China should do more in the world (the debate that China is a “global free-rider is an old one), but the fact that Chinese citizens are now starting to find themselves edging around the incomprehensible global dilemma “why do they hate us?” In the wake of September 11, 2001, American’s woke up to this and realized that there were people in the world who deeply resented the path their nation was taking. This was a shock to a country that had always viewed its role in international affairs as essentially benign and positive. And in China now we are starting to see the contours of this same debate. As China ascends, no matter how hard it tries to remain a benign force, it will find itself taking sides and those on the other side will resent China as a result. This will have a knock-on effect that can be very hard to predict, but will leave some Chinese citizens wondering what it is they have done to deserve this. Unfortunately, this is a reality of the world that we live in where there are winners and losers and those on the bottom will use any means they can to get at those at the top.

潘睿凡 2012-02-08 03:24
随着中国的崛起,无论它怎样努力地保持低姿态,它还是会发现,总有人站在其对立面。
潘睿凡  国际激进主义研究  中心研究员

随着中国的崛起,无论它怎样努力地保持低姿态,它还是会发现,总有人站在其对立面。

过去的一周对中国而言是充满海外担忧的一周。25名中国人在埃及无辜被绑架,只是因为当地人之间的一场争端。与此同时,挪威一地方法院对策划袭击中国驻奥斯陆大使馆一案进行了结案审理。在苏丹,29名中国水电公司工人被当地反政府武装绑架。中国公民和利益似乎逐渐成为海外袭击目标,这种不可避免的现实趋势使得中国不得不反省是否应跳出约束,在全球事务中表现更积极的一面。

上述事件并非新事。我们目睹过多次中国工人和公民在海外陷入这样的麻烦,在去年中国政府成功解救回国的3万多名中国工人中,大部分身陷利比亚国内动乱,还有数千名其他中国工人在埃及和突尼斯骚乱中获救。背后的事实是,一方面,大量的中国工人因为中国“走出去”战略而被派赴海外,另一方面,有人意识到,绑架中国公民肯定会引起更多关注。

这是成长为全球大国的黑暗一面。GDP增长为世界第二大经济体是值得骄傲的事情,但这同时也会招致“额外”的关注。这些“额外”关注可能来自于那些生气的、感到被遗忘的人,那些想通过劫持有钱的中国公民而一举发财的人,也可能来自于那些想获得全球关注的人。在过去,激进组织如果想成为国际头条,他们会绑架西方人(比如与基地有关的组织和南非犯罪网络曾经绑架过不明数量的欧洲人)。而现在,显然绑架中国工人铁定能获取这种关注。

这种效应是中国政府救援本国海外公民努力的一个副产品。问题在于,救援力度越大,绑架中国公民引起关注的可能性就越大。当中国工人在苏丹被绑架,消息上了中国报纸的头条,这会施压政府去采取一些行动。北京派出了工作组,而新闻和微博平台充满人们对被绑工人命运和政府回应的讨论。这对绑架者来说,正是他们想要的。

被派去解决问题的中国官员将会发现自己置身于关于当地事务的对话中。出于保护投资的原因,中国长久以来在苏丹的问题中扮演一个致力于带来解决方案的建设性角色,先前中国与苏丹的那些合同毫无疑问可让绑架事件告一段落。这个事实显示了中国在世界上作用的实质在发生变化。中国显然还未到四处“展示肌肉”的时候,但如果只是为了保护其日益增长多样化的海外利益,中国已经到了不得不在全球事务中发挥作用的时候。

中国目前已经被视为一个全球性的大国。这将引起两方面的反应:一方面,国内有更多的呼声,要求政府进一步保障和发展中国的海外利益;另一方面,则是在国际上,树大招风,中国可能被当作“全球化中令人讨厌的面孔”(某位美国学者在几年前的评价),激发国际上某种程度的敌对态度。为应对这些情况,中国需要更加积极地投身于国际事务之中,从而保证它的利益,保护其国民在世界各地不受侵犯。

但是,在开始积极行动之前,中国必须要对当前世界有更深入的了解,需要设立一些“快速反应小组”以协调地方事务,而地方官员也要实事求是深入了解本地实情。在“阿拉伯之春”系列事件中暴露出的一个问题是:当时中国有关部门无法在第一时间精确统计在那些中东国家中工作的中国工人数目——而这对于应急预案的提前制定具有重要意义。另外,中国应该进一步发挥它在国际维和以及打击索马里海盗等行动中的积极态度,从而能够在解决全球问题方面进行更广泛的合作,发挥更具建设性的作用。在目前美国等西方国家所主导的国际安全体系下,中国已经成为某种程度上的受益者,如果它能更多地做出一些贡献,那必将更有益。

但这个问题也另外有着深刻的心理因素。且不提“在世界上发挥更多的作用”这类话题(“中国在全球搭顺风车”,这已经是老生常谈),而现在的实际情况就是,中国人发现他们正逐渐陷入这样一种难以理解的窘境——“他们为什么不喜欢我们?” 回头看看2001年的美国,到9月11日那天他们才恍然发现,原来这世上竟有人是如此地憎恨其“美式道路”。这令一个一直自豪于自己善意积极之国际角色的国家大为震惊。而在中国,我们已经依稀看到了相似的问题轮廓。随着中国的崛起,无论它怎样努力地保持低姿态,它还是会发现,总有人站在其对立面。这将引发哪些间接后果,也许现在还难以预料,但这肯定会让一些中国人心生疑惑——我们哪里做错了?而这个世界的残酷现实就是:这世上,有人输、有人赢,那些最底下的人势必会用尽一切手段来找你的麻烦。(白澜 译)

A new piece for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, this time looking in some detail at a plot that was disrupted in the UK last week. The chaps are about to get sentenced this week, and I may cover another aspect of this in another upcoming piece some point soon. On another note the friendly team at the International Center for the Study of Terrorism (ICST) at Penn State recently used my old article looking at Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri Mohammed and their links to terror plots as the basis of a statistical analysis exploring what information can be drawn when using network analysis models on the data I had gathered. A fascinating idea and I was very pleased to see it had sparked off such interest in them, and in such a prominent journal! Unfortunately, the article is behind a firewall, and here is the link….

The Perils of Leaderless Jihad

By Raffaello Pantucci | Tuesday, February 7, 2010 – 12:47 PM

Just over a year ago a group of twelve men were arrested as part of a long-term investigation led by British intelligence agency MI5 into a network of cells of British Muslims suspected of plotting acts of terrorism. Last week, just as the jury trial was about to get underway, the nine defendants eventually charged in the case chose to plead guilty in the hope of getting reduced sentences. Codenamed Operation Guava and featuring British radical groups, the Internet, Inspire magazine, training camps in Pakistan, prison radicalization and a mysterious character known as “the Bengali,” this case brings together a number of different strands in British jihadist terrorism.

The accused plotters were rounded up in four different locations: Birmingham, Cardiff, East London and Stoke-on-Trent, though charges against the Birmingham group were dropped. Four of the men have now admitted to planning on leaving a bomb inside the restroom of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), while the other five pled guilty to various charges of terrorist fundraising, attending terrorist attack planning meetings, or possessing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Inspire magazine. In summing up, the prosecutor highlighted that the group had not actually planned to kill anyone; “their intention was to cause terror and economic harm and disruption.” However, “their chosen method meant there was a risk people would be maimed or killed.”

The various cells of the plot met independently in their various locations before connecting nationally through radical networks, Dawah (proselytization) stalls run by extremist groups in cities like Cardiff and webforums like PalTalk. They had all met together in person just a couple of times. The prosecution characterized Mohammed Chowdhury of London as the “ring leader” of the network, though it seems to have been less structured than that. The Stoke group in particulardeveloped plans on its own to carry out a bombing campaign in Stoke, and were eager to recruit more members and train in Kashmir. Stories in the media indicated that members of the Cardiffand Stoke groups had been seen at meetings and protests organized by successor groups of al Muhajiroun (the infamous group established in the late 1990s by a cleric now-banned from Britain, Omar Bakri Mohammed). And a picture has emerged of central plotter Mohammed Chowdury holding an Islam4UK placard at one of the organization’s events (Islam4UK was a name adopted by al Muhajiroun after a former appellation was added to the list of proscribed terror groups by British authorities). While the role of al Muhajiroun — or whatever the name of the successor group may be; at other times they have used the names Saved Sect, al Ghurabaa, Muslims Against Crusades, and the one in vogue currently, Ummah United — as a radicalizer in networks that have produced terrorists has somewhat receded from that of its heyday, this plot showed the potential risks that still linger from the network.

Neighbors of the men detained in Cardiff reported that some members of the group had apparently served time in prison, where it seemed they had picked up radical ideas. A longstanding concern of Western authorities, the potential for prison radicalization had already reared its head this year in the U.K. when it was revealed last month that a British man who had been converted while serving in Feltham Young Offenders Institution was a key figure in an alleged terrorist plot that was disrupted in December in Mombasa, Kenya. He was not the first terrorist to have done time in Feltham; both ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid and leader of the July 21, 2005 follow-up attempt to attack London’s underground system, Muktar Said Ibrahim, passed through their gates.

But the element that has caught the most media attention is the group’s use of AQAP’s English-language jihadi manual Inspire. The group had downloaded copies of the magazine and were apparently following its advice in trying to plan a terrorist plot. They discussed the idea of copying the parcel bombs sent by the group in October 2010 and using the Royal Mail or DHLto send bombs within the United Kingdom. Where they were planning on sending them was hinted at in a list they had compiled of the addresses of London Mayor Boris Johnson and at least two prominent British rabbis. Members of the group were also trailed as they reconnoitered a number of locations in London, including the London Stock Exchange, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Blackfriars Bridge and the Church of Scientology. The Stoke group discussed leaving bombs in local pubs and clubs. They seemed to have taken Anwar al-Awlaki’s injunctions (of which they had collected substantial amounts) to heart, and were eager to strike in the West at any targets that they could find.

But the group also appears to have maintained some connections with more classic aspects of theBritish jihadi story, and sought to train abroad in Kashmir. Initially, they claimed that their meetings were to find ways of raising money for Kashmir. Indeed, the Stoke group (predominantly made up of Pakistani-Britons, unlike the London and Cardiff groups, which were made up of Bangladeshi-Britons) had decided to travel abroad to obtain training and had already funded the construction of a madrassa in Kashmir that they spoke of using as a training camp for British radicals. Furthermore, they made connections to a mysterious figure named in court only as “the Bengali,” after which they had moved forward with putting their ideas into practice, scoping out targets and trying out making bombs.

This plot is not the only one currently making its way through British courts. Late last year, police in Birmingham arrested a group they claimed had discussed suicide bombs and had allegedly made connections with groups in Pakistan. Operation Guava’s significance lies in the fact that it brings together a number of different strands in current counter-terrorism concerns in the UK, creating a complex hybrid plot that seems to have been hatched and conceived entirely at home. A textbook example of Leaderless Jihad.
Raffaello Pantucci is an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), and his writing can be found: http://www.raffaellopantucci.com.

Another short blogpost for Free Rad!cals, this time on a topic that has been bugging me for a while. It seems as though the US is making a few unfortunate choices in counter-radicalisation terms that emulate earlier mistakes Europe made, something particularly silly given how much attention they have lavished on studying and criticising Europe’s mistakes. This was already up, but I see now that guru Brian Michael Jenkins has written an excellent piece for Foreign Affairs attacking another mistaken American policy choice. Of course, not everything the US has done is negative in this regard, but there are a few silly mistakes that seem to be being made.

Muslim Integration: America Must Avoid Europe’s Mistakes

Filed under: Europe, Homegrown extremism, UK

Americans love to berate Europe and its failings. Youthful America looks to its European progenitor and sees post-colonial stagnation and sclerotic economies that are unwilling to face up to their problems. A bugbear of the past few years has been criticism of Europe’s approach to its resident Muslim population. Commentaries have focused on a problem that is seen by many as an incubator of anger that has expressed itself in the form of attacks by European, or European-based, terrorists against America – most notably on September 11, 2001.

But while Europe has in the past provided a depressingly productive Petri dish for Muslim rage with contradictory policies that have had an alienating effect on parts of the broader community, it is increasingly the case that America is simply following Europe in the same direction. Recent stories of New York’s police department using inflammatory videos about Islamist extremism in training come in the wake of stories of possibly CIA assisted intelligence operations against Muslim communities. Whatever the tactical utility of such operations, it is clear that from a hearts-and-minds perspective they can be seen to be a failure.

More absurdly, states have tried to pass laws preventing shariah law from being imposed on them – a highly unlikely outcome, but reflective of the high levels of paranoia and anti-Muslim feeling amongst the American public. Something also seen in stories of Muslim leaders being disembarked from domestic flights with little reason given, in some cases as they were on their way to conferences about “Islamophobia”.

At a political level the conversation has been just as poisonous as in Europe. Potential Republican candidate Newt Gingrich has spoken of “the mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it” posed by shariah. In Congress, Representative Peter King has held hearings accusing America’s Muslim community of failing to regulate itself and producing homegrown terrorists. And while a direct correlation with this polarizing narrative is of course impossible to draw, there has been an increase in young Americans drawn by the lure of jihad abroad or into becoming involved in what they believe are terror plots within the US in the past few years.

Europe has hardly covered itself in glory in integrating its Muslim communities. But neither has America, and the current approach is increasingly emulating many of Europe’s failed policies. It is all very good to shout about Europe’s failings, but the United States needs to increasingly look within before it allows its problems to get too out of hand.

America has a long tradition of being a national melting pot, able to absorb people of all cultures and creeds and accepting of diversity as a crucial element of its identity. For years, the belief was that America would be immune to the sort of problems that Europe faced with homegrown extremism. As time has shown, however, this is clearly not the case with numerous young men drawn to the flame of extremism. The United States should focus on learning positive lessons from Europe’s problematic experience and avoid emulating its failed policies.