Triangle Center to study how Muslim communities address extremism

Finding out how American Muslims address messages of extremism in their communities will be the goal of a two-year study being launched by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Center Director David Schanzer leads the study.

Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use the information to recommend policies for reducing the likelihood that the United States experiences the type of homegrown terrorism seen recently in Europe.

“In light of the recent events in London and Glasgow, it is critically important to understand why widespread radicalization has not occurred in the United States and take steps to reinforce this trend,” said center Director David Schanzer, a visiting professor at Duke and adjunct professor at UNC. Schanzer is principal investigator for the study, which was funded by a $394,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security is a think tank sponsored by Duke, UNC and RTI International, a research firm headquartered in Research Triangle Park.

Center researchers will seek to learn from the responses of four American Muslim communities to radical Islamic movements across the globe, said Charles Kurzman, a UNC associate professor of sociology and co-principal investigator in the project. With another co-principal investigator, Ebrahim Moosa, associate professor of Islamic studies at Duke, and graduate students, Kurzman and Schanzer will study Muslim communities in Buffalo, Houston, Seattle and the Triangle.

Of those, only Houston has experienced no known violence attributed to Islamic extremism, Kurzman said. In the other three, one or two incidents attributed to individuals acting alone were denounced by other local Muslims.

“Osama Bin Laden and other revolutionaries have argued that it is the responsibility of every Muslim who can do so to engage in violent jihad, but few Muslims have taken up this call, especially in the United States,” Kurzman said. “It is critical that we see what we can learn from these communities. We hope this research will be helpful to policymakers and law enforcement officials.”

The study will involve scholars in the religion department and the Sanford Institute at Duke, and in the sociology department at UNC.