The assassination of State University of New York-Binghamton Middle East anthropology professor emeritus Richard Antoun, on Friday, December 4, in which a Saudi Arabian graduate student named Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani has been charged, once again highlights the issue: how to distinguish between Islamist extremists and moderate Muslim believers, both of whom have come to live in the West?
An official British government project titled "Preventing Violent Extremism"--with "Prevent" as its abbreviation, but also known as "PVE"--has received much attention on its home soil, but is seldom mentioned elsewhere. Yet the conception, difficulties, and, finally, the probable destruction of the program by Muslim radicals abetted by "anti-racism" activists, offer numerous lessons to Americans.
In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, London metro bombings, Labour government officials developed a counter-terrorism strategy called "Contest" (emphasis on the second syllable), intended to mobilize anti-radical elements among British Muslims. "Prevent" was introduced in 2006 as one of four alliterative aims: "Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare." Early in 2007, the UK Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) specified its goals and methods in a paper titled "Preventing Violent Extremism: Winning Hearts and Minds." That set of guidelines declared that in contending with terrorism, "while a security response is vital it will not, on its own, be enough. Winning hearts and minds and preventing individuals being attracted to violent extremism in the first place is also crucial." Definitions of these worthy goals were, however, vague--they comprised little more than "promoting shared values, supporting local solutions, building civic capacity and leadership, and strengthening the role of faith institutionsand leaders."