When we published our interview with David Yerushalmi, Esq., last December in the NER, “Fighting Shariah through the Law”, in response to a question about the Mapping Shariah study, he indicated that an article would be forthcoming in a peer-reviewed journal. The Middle East Quarterly, MEQ, published the article in the Summer Quarterly edition, “Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques”, co-authored by Israeli academic scholar Mordechai Kedar and Yerushalmi. Kedar is an assistant professor in the departments of Arabic and Middle East studies and a research associate with the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, both at Bar Ilan University, Israel. Yerushalmi is general counsel for The Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and director of policy studies at the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Potomac, Md. Kedar, coincidentally, is a colleague on the board of Z Street.
The MEQ article by Kedar and Yerushalmi is a rigorous discussion of the design, principal findings and policy conclusions derived from the Mapping Sharia project.
Many of the indicators of Shariah compliance used as indicators of adherence to extremist Salafist doctrine are similar to those discussed by investigator David Gaubatz, author of Muslim Mafia, as part of panel discussion on the film, Obsession at the University of South Florida in a November 2008 NER Article. Gaubatz’s subsequent investigative efforts were discussed in a July 2009 NER article on Muslim Brotherhood Fronts, CAIR and ISNA.
The MEQ article underscores the importance of the Mapping Sharia empirical study that correlated indicators of Shariah compliance with the propensity of a national representative sample of 100 Mosques in America. The benefits as the co-authors noted are considerable:
When viewed together, a picture emerges that may give researchers, as well as law enforcement officials, a way to monitor or potentially to predict where violent jihad may take root. Potential recruits who are swept up in this movement may find their inspiration and encouragement in a place with ready access to classic and modern literature that is positive toward jihad and violence, where highly Shari'a-adherent behavior is practiced, and where a society exists that in some form promotes a culture of martyrdom or at least engages in activities that are supportive of violent jihad. The mosque can be such a place.
That the mosque is a societal apparatus that might serve as a support mechanism for violent jihad may seem self-evident, but for it to be a useful means for measuring radicalization requires empirical evidence.
Among the principle findings and conclusions from the Kedar- Yerushalmi MEQ article are;
The study found a statistically significant association between the severity of violence-positive texts on mosque premises and Shari'a-adherent behaviors. . . . Mosques that segregated men from women during prayer service were more likely to contain violence-positive materials than those mosques where men and women were not segregated. Mosques that did not segregate genders were also less likely to possess violence-positive materials (26 percent) but nonetheless did carry both moderate (27 percent) and severe materials (47 percent).
[. . . ] Perhaps more troubling than the correlation between jihadist literature and Shari'a-adherent behaviors within a mosque was the role played by imams in recommending that worshipers study material that promote violence. The more manifestly Shari'a-adherent a mosque, the more likely its imam was to recommend the study of violence-positive texts. Thus, as seen in Table 4, 96 percent of the imams in mosques that observed strict prayer line alignment recommended such reading material. Similarly, 93 percent of the imams who sported a traditional, full beard endorsed the study of such writings.
[. . .] But while the presence of certain Shari'a-adherent behaviors correlated almost one-to-one with the promotion of the violence-positive texts, the absence of these attributes should not be construed as a sign of true moderation. In mosques that did not practice strict prayer line alignment, a striking 72 percent of imams nonetheless recommended violence-positive materials. Similarly, 78 percent of imams who did not wear a traditional beard were proponents of these texts.
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 Shari'a; 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. . . Of the 51 mosques that contained severe materials, 100 percent were led by imams who recommended that worshipers study texts that promote violence.
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. By contrast, only one out of the 19 mosques (5 percent) that had no violence-positive literature advocated this. Similarly, mosques with severe or moderate materials invited speakers known to have promoted violent jihad (76 percent and 60 percent respectively) versus one mosque out of 19 (5 percent) which did not contain violence-positive texts.
Finally, three patterns of behavior indicating promotion of violent jihad did not strongly correlate to the presence of violence-positive literature. Despite the presence of severe texts in such mosques, only a small number actually encouraged joining a terrorist organization, openly collected monies for such organizations, or distributed memorabilia featuring jihadists or terrorist organizations. Although very few mosques engaged openly in these activities, a correlation between these activities and the presence and severity of violence-positive literature was shown to exist.
The authors of the MEQ article noted these policy conclusion based of their analysis of Mapping Sharia survey data:
The conclusions to be drawn from this survey are dismal at best, offering empirical support for previous anecdotal studies on the connection between highly Shari'a-adherent mosques and political violence in the name of Islam. The mosques where there were greater indicators of Shari'a adherence were more likely to contain materials that conveyed a positive attitude toward employing violent jihad against the West and non-Muslims. The fact that spiritual sanctioners who help individuals become progressively more radicalized are connected to highly Shari'a-adherent mosques is another cause for deep concern. In almost every instance, the imams at the mosques where violence-positive materials were available recommended that worshipers study texts that promoted violence.
[. . .]
Unfortunately, the results of the current survey strongly suggest that Islam—as it is generally practiced in mosques across the United States—continues to manifest a resistance to the kind of tolerant religious and legal framework that would allow its followers to make a sincere affirmation of liberal citizenship. This survey provides empirical support for the view that mosques across America, as institutional and social settings for mosque-going Muslims, are at least resistant to social cooperation with non-Muslims. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of mosques surveyed promoted literature supportive of violent jihad and a significant number invited speakers known to have promoted violent jihad and other behaviors that are inconsistent with a reasonable construct of liberal citizenship.
This survey suggests that, first and foremost, Muslim community leaders must take a more active role in educating their own faith community about the dangers associated with providing a safe haven for violent literature and its promotion—whether that safe haven is the mosque or the social club. These results also suggest that researchers and counterterrorist specialists should pay closer attention to the use and exploitation of classic Islamic legal doctrine and jurisprudence for recruiting and generating a commitment to violence against the perceived enemies of Islam. Finally, these findings should engender at least an interest among researchers to begin to study carefully Muslim attitudes toward citizenship and violence but one that differentiates between those who are Shari'a-adherent and those who are not. And, among Shari'a adherents, this future survey data must be sensitive to the distinction between traditionalism, orthodoxy, and Salafism, along with the more obvious sect distinctions, such as between Sunnis and Shiites.