Establishing Official Islam? The Law and Strategy of Counter-Radicalization
66 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 20, 2012
In the name of national security, federal and local governments have begun to intervene domestically in the religious lives of Muslims and into Islam itself. Taken together, these interventions form part of the emerging strategy of counter-radicalization, by which officials aim to diminish the pull of radical Islamic ideology in part by promoting more “mainstream” theological alternatives. Both the official opposition to radical Islam (as opposed to the violence that it is thought to generate) and the support for more palatable (to the state, that is) religious alternatives generate friction with the Establishment Clause and the values that it enshrines. But the prospect of establishing “Official Islam” is not the only worry surrounding counter-radicalization. Counter-radicalization also suffers from a number of strategic flaws that have become apparent in the context of British counter-radicalization efforts undertaken over the last five years. Most fundamentally, Western governments, including our own, are unlikely to succeed in tackling the risk of future terrorism by attempting to shape religious ideology. In fact, this strategy is likely to backfire by stoking animosities and fear. This Article describes the emergence of American counter-radicalization and its roots in the British example, highlights the tension between this area of official endeavor and the Establishment Clause, and reveals the tight connection between the legal and strategic challenges with which American counter-radicalization must contend.
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