It doesn’t set out to do so, but an exhaustive profile of an Islamic cleric in Sunday’s New York Times magazine makes the depth and severity of radicalization among some young Muslim Americans very clear.
Reporter Andrea Elliott devotes nearly 8,500 words to Yasir Qadhi, in the article “Why Yasir Qadhi Wants to Talk About Jihad.” It casts a picture of a very conservative but generally peaceful Salafi Muslim. As such, he is cast as the ultra-conservative Muslim antidote to al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is credited with inspiring everyone from Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and would-be terrorists Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad.
But Qadhi, dean of academic affairs at the Houston-based AlMaghrib Institute, rarely is shown aggressively challenging the radical ideas the fuel violent jihad. If anything, he agrees with them, including a notion that the U.S. is at war with Muslims. That message is considered among the most forceful in radicalizing young Muslims into supporting violence.
Like his students, religion is more than a personal belief system to Qadhi. He would like to see “the world … fully adhere to his faith,” the story says. He won’t say whether he considers attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to be legitimate jihads.
It is due to a delicate balancing act, the story explains. If he speaks too openly about “what kinds of militant actions are permitted by Islamic law,” he risks being labeled unpatriotic and possibly even prosecuted, Elliott writes.