Another radicalized youth, another “shocked” community: the case of Starkville

We at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy have for years been at the forefront of warning both our own Muslim community and the broader American community about the threat of domestic radicalization. We are joined by morally courageous individuals like Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali leader in Minneapolis who has dedicated his life to fighting radicalization within his own community; and individuals and groups from across Muslim-majority societies and the diaspora who are engaged in the vital, dangerous, and daily labor of combating extremist elements who prey on our own.

For our efforts, anti-radical Muslims are branded as “Uncle Toms,” demonized, excluded from community functions and gatherings – and at the very worst, executed or tortured for dissenting with the radicals.

In the United States, we are in a uniquely privileged position to speak out – and we must, as our community is in no way immune to the threat of radicalization. This has, unfortunately, proven itself to be true over and over again.

Indeed, we have seen numerous attempts by groups like ISIS to steal away our nation’s youth for their cosmic war and perverse agendas.

Most recently, it’s another “small town”, another pair of “easy going” and “good kids” who “baffled” their community by becoming radicalized. The New York Times declared the case to be “perplexing,” and declared that friends and strangers “could not imagine two less likely candidates for the growing roster of young, aspiring American jihadists.”

Now, we do not believe that every Muslim youth is susceptible to the likes of ISIS – indeed not. We instead encourage both other Muslims and the broader American community to be attune to concerning signs, like a rapid change in a youth’s commitment to religion (more than a passion for faith, they become fixated on rigidity, extreme religious dogma, etc), an obsession with the narrative of America as anti-Muslim; rhetoric from the pulpit and on mosque websites that stems from Islamist sources, extremely patriarchal and controlling dynamics in the family, and so on.

In the case of Jaelyn Young (19) and Muhammad Dakhlalla (22) of Starkville, Mississippi, some alarming signs do fit, eliminating again the excuse for the community to act surprised.

Jaelyn fits the profile of a young woman who fell in love with and may committed her life to someone (Dakhlalla) whose particular interpretation of Islam may not have been as pluralistic as his well-meaning peers seem to have thought it was.

Dakhlalla’s father, Oda Dakhlalla, has been known to offer sermons at the Islamic Center of Mississippi (ICM). One quick glance at the mosque’s homepage reveals troubling endorsements of pieces like this: an article from the website “IslamiCity” which condemns freedom of speech but not those who carry out attacks like that against Charlie Hebdo. It reads, in part:

But for the Muslims, the issue should be quite clear: Islam does not allow the adoption and propagation of ‘Freedom of Speech’ as propagated by the west since this would include the promotion of such ideas that clearly contradict Islam, such as usury, obscenity under the guise of entertainment and separation of Islam from life’s affairs……The question that needs to be asked is, ‘What was it in the Muslim world that had fostered such tolerance, authenticity, creativity, and human flourishing?’ It certainly was not the current notion of freedom that is prevailing in today’s world but rather it was the result of the implementation of Islam on society.”

This excerpt clearly calls for the implementation of a certain type of Islamic jurisprudence over a society, barring freedom of speech and entangling religious law with every aspect of life.

Let us not forget the words of Muhammad Yousef Abdulazeez on own blog, days before his terror spree in Chattanooga on July 16: We ask Allah to make us follow their path. To give us a complete understanding of the message of Islam, and the strength the live by this knowledge, and to know what role we need to play to establish Islam in the world.” Abdulazeez killed four marines in his effort to establish his brand of Islam on society – and people are surprised that the product of a mosque harboring the exact same goals was radicalized?

Any Muslim tuned into the problems plaguing our community today, and who would be honest about how radical ideas take root, would be alarmed not just at this article, but that it would be promoted by an American mosque. (It is also important to note that the mosque’s website links to HUDA TV, an Islamist satellite broadcasting service known for its Wahhabist bent.)

Is this the Islam of Oda Dakhlalla, preached in the Islamic center of Mississippi and passed down to his son Muhammad? If so, there really lies no question as to how this young man could have come to see America as his adversary, and ISIS as his natural allies. It has also been reported that Muhammad still lived at home and was supported by his parents. We hope that there will be a thorough investigation into the ideology Muhammad was exposed to.

The fact that a son of an imam is once again at the center of such a story, and that a young woman was lured into his trap – should cause Americans (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to once and for all gather the resolve that radicalization is a problem within the “House of Islam,” rather than some obscure problem of “violent extremism.” Islamism as embraced by Muhammad Dakhlalla is a theopolitical ideology bolstered from pulpits and around dinner tables. This problem takes root well before an individual signs up to join a group like ISIS: seeds are planted earlier, as Western values and universal human rights are treated as a threat by those propagating a supremacist version of Islam. Once an individual has been influenced in this way, a final slide toward violent extremism can happen over the course of just weeks or months – and tragically, they often take along more naïve parties like Ms. Young.

Dr. Jasser spoke to Judge Jeanine Pirro about this case on Saturday, August 15. Please click here to see the video.