Study: Enhance religious ed for U.S. Muslims

Earlier this week, there were news reports about a study finding that the threat of "homegrown" Islamist terrorism is often exaggerated. The study was funded by the Justice Department and conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. Time reported:

Titled "Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim American Communities," the report says the community has successfully limited radicalization by policing itself. It cites denunciations of terrorism, internal self-policing, community building, government-funded support services and political engagement as some of the ways the community has limited the spread of radicalization. "Many community leaders have come to recognize that [tackling radicalization] is a matter of survival," says Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion at Duke and a co-author of the report. "They know that radicalization threatens the community at large and are working hard to defeat it." The researchers recommend that the government reinforce these efforts.

One interesting aspect not mentioned in the news coverage I saw is that the study urges better education in Islam for Muslims:

"Most of those who engage in religiously inspired terrorism have little formal training in Islam and, in fact, are poorly educated about Islam. At the same time, we have observed, as have others, an increased religiosity among Muslim-Americans. This is to be welcomed, not feared. Muslim-Americans with a strong, traditional religious training are far less likely to be radicalized than those whose knowledge of Islam is incomplete."

The study offers a refreshing break from the claims so often made that Islam and organized religion in general are a source of violence.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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