After the terror attack in California on December 2, everybody agrees we have to do something different to counter the threat from ISIS-inspired attacks in the United States, even as commentators endlessly debate what that should be. Ultimately, there are three things that would make a real difference and enable us to win what looks to be a long, long fight.
First, all individuals in this country who display evidence of extreme radicalization should be subject to surveillance, not just those who show signs of violence. Expanded surveillance not only increases the likelihood of detecting terror plots, but helps build deeper institutional knowledge of how Islamism functions in the United States.
The fact that the FBI knew Syed Rizwan Farook was in contact with the targets of an ongoing terrorism investigation and did nothing to keep tabs on him (presumably because he had not mentioned he was going to shoot people) is a tragic mistake that cannot be repeated.
Muslims who display evidence of extreme radicalization should be subject to surveillance.
Next, the United States must give unequivocal support to those states in the Middle East that are committed to resisting the spread of Islamism (Israel, Jordan, the Kurdish Regional Government, and a handful of others), shun those that aren't or who contribute to the problem (Saudi Arabia, Turkey), and get out of the business of attempting to politically engineer stable states in the Islamic world.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must ostracize mainstream Islamic institutions that preach intolerance and America-hatred. These range from Saudi-funded Wahhabist mosques to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Foreign nationals who preach hate should be deported, and American citizens who encourage radicalization should be watched carefully.
Here's why we must act to diminish the influence of these organizations.
Mere hours after fourteen people were massacred, after one of the perpetrator's Muslim-sounding name was made public, CAIR rushed to the side of the shooter's family and held a hastily-arranged press conference designed to deflect blame from Islam and warn about possible blowback against members of the Muslim community as a consequence of the attacks.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) rushed to the side of the shooter's family after the massacre.
CAIR continues to claim that it does not support radical ideologies, despite growing public evidence that its founders funded, aided, abetted and justified terrorist attacks by radical Islamists.
CAIR's words and deeds are about as far apart on that point as you can imagine. At the press conference this week, CAIR's leaders said they were against violence and terrorism. They called for an investigation into the shooters' motives and their actions.
Despite these words, CAIR – or at least the group's predecessors – has not had a problem supporting the violent radical Islamist terrorist group Hamas. The Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas front group convicted in America's largest terrorism financing case, made an early $5,000 donation to CAIR to help establish it. Several CAIR founders and/or officials were convicted in the same case. Subsequently, the FBI severed its liaison relationship with the CAIR, banning it from cooperation for the foreseeable future. CAIR was not indicted as a defendant, but was deemed to be an unindicted co-conspirator. The FBI did "not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner" and "suspended all formal outreach activities" with it.
CAIR's playbook calls for it to change the subject as quickly as possible to Muslims-as-victims. The organization does this masterfully. Less than two days after the massacre, CAIR has already placed articles complaining about the post-shooting spike in "Islamophobia" in prominent papers like the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The Post article not only prominently quotes CAIR, but also the imam of a Falls Church mosque, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a mosque with which CAIR seems to have warm ties. The mosque was attended by at least three people convicted of terrorism, Ahmed Abu Ali, Amine El Khalifi, and Paul Rockwood, Jr., and visited by at least two others, Hani Hanjour and Nawaq Alhamzi.
Let's stop treating terrorist sympathizers like they have a place in our society.
In the coming days we can expect many more details to emerge about the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. We will likely learn what led the two assailants to plan and execute such a heartless and cruel attack against a soft target filled with innocents. And we will begin, once again, to grapple with the question of how best to protect the American people from terrorist attacks inspired by radical Islam.
There is a lot we do not yet know about what happened this week, but the public would be wise to look beyond the surface of CAIR's PR efforts. CAIR and its ilk are trying to whitewash the deadly impact of radical Islam under the guise of supporting civil rights. Let's tell it like it is and stop treating terrorist sympathizers or supporters like they have a place in our society.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.