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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is David Yerushalmi, General Counsel to the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based national security think tank founded and headed by former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney. He is considered an expert on Islamic law and its intersection with Islamic terrorism and national security. In this capacity, he has published widely on the subject, including the principle critical scholarship on sharia-compliant finance published in the Utah Law Review (2008, Issue 3). He has also designed and co-authored (with Mordechai Kedar) a ground-breaking peer reviewed empirical investigation on sharia-adherence and the promotion of violent, jihadist literature in U.S. mosques published in the Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2011).
FP: David Yerushalmi, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Yerushalmi: Thank you, Jamie.
We began this study in 2007, with a careful and rigorous methodological design. The purpose was to measure sharia-adherence (or Islamic legal orthodoxy) among worshippers and their imams at U.S. mosques (i.e., the independent variable) and to measure that against both the presence of violent and jihadist literature and, more, the actual promotion of that literature by the imam (i.e., the dependent variables). We took four years to conduct the study because we need a large enough random sampling of mosques across the U.S. to be able to say with some certainty that we can speak about U.S. mosques generally and because we understood that we would need to confirm our data during a subsequent survey so that we could be certain of the integrity of our results and so we were not merely taking a one-time “snap shot” of these mosques.
After surveying 100 mosques randomly chosen across the U.S., and after “auditing” our data, our results were troubling, to say the least.
First, of the 100 mosques surveyed, 51% had texts on site rated as severely advocating violence; 30% had texts rated as moderately advocating violence; and 19% had no violent texts at all. Mosques that presented as Sharia adherent were more likely to feature violence-positive texts on site than were their non-Sharia-adherent counterparts. In 84.5% of the mosques, the imam recommended studying violence-positive texts. The leadership at Sharia-adherent mosques was more likely to recommend that a worshipper study violence-positive texts than leadership at non-Sharia-adherent mosques. Fifty-eight percent of the mosques invited guest imams known to promote violent jihad. The leadership of mosques that featured violence-positive literature was more likely to invite guest imams who were known to promote violent jihad than was the leadership of mosques that did not feature violence-positive literature on mosque premises.
FP: Were the results of the study a surprise?
Yerushalmi: Not for us in this field. For example, Shaikh Hisham Kabbani, a well-respected Sufi leader in the U.S., has reported to the Department of State that his personal research (albeit not based upon a rigorous empirical design) evidences that hard-core Salafists from the Wahhab sect of Saudi Arabia have taken control and spread “extremism” in 80% of U.S. mosques. (See here and here.)
In addition to this anecdotal evidence, the very credible Freedom House under the direction of Nina Shea conducted a serious survey of major mosques in U.S. urban environments and found Wahhabi-Saudi jihad literature literally permeating these mosques. Again, while the study was of select mosques and not a random survey, it suggested a major infiltration that supported Kabbani’s reports.
Our findings that 81% of U.S. mosques contain this literature, while troubling, would not be considered surprising. What is surprising, was the degree to which the presence of this literature was correlated with the imams actually promoting this jihad hate literature. In other words, one might expect a mosque to have some of this material but as reference literature, not as something the imams would actively promote. What our study found was that mosques with this literature were not merely repositories but incubators for the messaging of this material.
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