At the American Thinker and Big Peace, Andrew Bostom discusses ”Sharia and Violence in American Mosques”, a new article by Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi published the Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2011, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 59-72). The somewhat inflammatory title is par for the course: Yerushalmi (perhaps best-known as Pamela Geller’s lawyer) is the brains behind the ideologically-driven “Mapping Shariah” project, which has a number of methodological problems that I outlined here. The paper is being published today; it appears that Bostom has been given an advance copy.
According to quotes in Bostom’s post (itself a diatribe entitled “Mosques as Barracks in America”), a number of US mosques were chosen at random,
(a) to observe and record 12 Sharia-adherent behaviors of the worshipers and the imam (or lay leader); (b) to observe whether the mosque contained the selected materials rated as moderate and severe; (c) to observe whether the mosque contained materials promoting, praising, or supporting violence or violent jihad; and (d) to observe whether the mosque contained materials indicating the mosque had invited guest speakers known to have promoted violent jihad.
51 percent of mosques had texts that either advocated the use of violence in the pursuit of a Shari’a-based political order or advocated violent jihad as a duty that should be of paramount importance to a Muslim; 30 percent had only texts that were moderately supportive of violence like the Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Fiqh as-Sunna; 19 percent had no violent texts at all.
…The survey found a strong correlation between the presence of severe violence-promoting literature and mosques featuring written, audio, and video materials that actually promoted such acts. By promotion of jihad, the study included literature encouraging worshipers to engage in terrorist activity, to provide financial support to jihadists, and to promote the establishment of a caliphate in the United States. These materials also explicitly praised acts of terror against the West; praised symbols or role models of violent jihad; promoted the use of force, terror, war, and violence to implement the [strange gap here - RB] Sharia; emphasized the inferiority of non-Muslim life; promoted hatred and intolerance toward non-Muslims or notional Muslims; and endorsed inflammatory materials with anti-U.S. views… [O]f the 51 mosques that contained severe materials, 100 percent were led by imams who recommended that worshipers study texts that promote violence.
[M]osques containing violence positive materials were substantially more likely to include materials promoting financial support of terror than mosques that did not contain such texts. A disturbing 98 percent of mosques with severe texts included materials promoting financial support of terror. Those with only moderate rated materials on site were not markedly different, with 97 percent providing such materials.
These results were comparable when using other indicators of jihad promotion. Thus, 98 percent of mosques that contained severe-rated literature included materials promoting establishing an Islamic caliphate in the United States as did 97 percent of mosques containing only moderate rated materials.
Further details on methodology are provided in an Appendix, which has been posted on-line here. The list of “Sharia Adherent Behaviors” includes: “gender segregation during prayer service”, “alignment of men’s prayer lines”, the imam’s beard style, whether the imam has a head covering or not or is wearing Western-style clothing, and whether the imam wears a watch on his right wrist. Also significant is the percentage of men wearing beards or hats, whether boys have head-coverings, and whether girls and women are wearing hijabs or niqabs – “Non-Shari’a-adherent behavior”, we are told, “is to wear the modern hijab (a scarf that does not completely cover the hair) or to not wear any hair”.
For reasons that are not immediately clear, we then segue into the issue of violence, as the list continues:
If the surveyor found the Fiqh as-Sunna or Tafsir Ibn Kathir, but not more extreme materials, then the mosque was categorized as containing moderate-rated material. If the surveyor found the Riyadh as-Salaheen, works by Qutb or Mawdudi, or similar materials, then the mosque was categorized as containing severe-rated materials.
If the surveyor found no violence-positive materials or if the violence-positive materials constituted less than 10% of all available materials, then the mosque was categorized as containing no materials.
…Following the prayer service, the surveyor asked the following question: “Do you recommend the study of: (a) only the Quran and/or Sunna; (b) Tafsir Ibn Kathir; (c) Fiqh as-Sunna; (e) Reliance of the Traveller; or (f) the works of Qutb, such as Milestones, and Maududi, such as The Meaning of the Qur’an?”
If the imam or lay leader recommended studying any of the materials mentioned above except the Qur’an and/or Sunna, then the imam or lay leader was recorded as having recommended the study of texts promoting the rated material.
The “10%” principle here is a welcome nod towards proportionality, but it’s undermined by what follows. The Reliance of the Traveller and the Tafsir Ibn Kathir are both pre-modern compendiums of Islamic law; of course they contain some troubling material, like many other pre-modern texts. But they also contain a lot else: we need to understand why the imams recommend these texts, not just note that they do and therefore chalk up one more extremist. It’s also unclear whether the imams are being asked about their general recommendation practices in relation to these texts or whether they are simply advising the questioner.
If materials available on mosque premises promoted joining a known terrorist organization, such as “mujahideen” engaged in jihad abroad, then the mosque was recorded as having promoted joining a terrorist organization.
That may seems reasonable so far as it goes, but again it begs a lot of questions. Some general sympathy for a mujahideen group involved in military conflict in somewhere in central Asia is a very different proposition from supporting al-Qaeda, so we need more than just a broad-brush “terrorism” label if we are to understand what is going on and why. And we need to know more about how the materials are made available, and in what ways they are promoted. Are leaflets given out to attendees, or is “promotion” simply an obscure poster pinned to an unmoderated noticeboard somewhere on the premises? There’s scope for various interpretations there.
If materials available on mosque premises indicated that speakers came to the mosque to raise money for specific terrorist organizations, then the mosque was recorded as having openly collected money at the mosque for a known terrorist organization.
…If any of the materials featured on mosque property promoted engaging in terrorist activity; promoted the financial support of terrorism or jihadists; promoted the use of force, terror, war, and violence to implement Shari‘a; promoted the idea that oppression and subversion of Islam should be changed by deed first, then by speech, then by faith; praised acts of terrorism against the West; or praised suicide bombers against Israelis, then the mosque was recorded as having promoted violent jihad.
This raises further questions: are we talking about organisations which are banned under US law, or organisations around which there are suspicions (reasonable or contrived) of links to terrorism?
We all know that some mosques in the USA and elsewhere promote radicalisation and extremism. We also know that others need to do more to ensure that radical elements do not gain a toe-hold. But this kind of inquisitorial and quantitative approach is of very limited value and is probably even misleading. If one wants to know whether a mosque “promotes jihad”, one needs to get a sense of the overall teaching and the general perspectives of those who attend. Simply totting up whether an undercover visitor can spot or elicit something troubling is an insufficient methodology. And what purpose is served by mixing all this in with a list “Sharia Adherent Behaviors”, other than to give Muslim cultural practices a sinister hue?
The Middle East Quarterly has a note on its peer-review process here. Previously, it rejected peer-review on the grounds that most specialists were not interested in “American interests” or were hostile to USA; however:
…In 2009, circumstances have begun to change. This journal finds itself part of a growing community of specialists not hostile to the United States and its allies. As other journals and organizations have joined our ranks, they increased the circle of those with professional and expert knowledge of the Middle East and created a larger pool of reviewers to engage in a constructive process of refereeing.
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