Muslims, law enforcement work together to prevent extremism

Posted December 17, 2015 7:00 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2015 7:34 p.m. EST

The Islamic community in the Triangle works actively to prevent extremist beliefs from developing and thriving here.

"There is no home for terror in our center," says Rashid Salahat, safety and security chairman of the Islamic Association of Raleigh.

He knows that the violent acts of a few extremists can reflect on all Muslims.

"What happens in this community affects all of us. So, if we see any danger, any suspicious person, we will report that person," Salahat said.

Despite the best efforts of the law enforcement and Muslim communities, North Carolina has seen both attacks and threats by Islamic extremism.

In 2006, Mohammed Taheri-Azar injured nine people when he drove a Jeep into a crowd on the campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In a letter left behind at his home, Taheri-Azar said that he drove the Jeep into the crowd to avenge the killings of Muslims by the U.S. across the world.

In 2009, federal authorities broke up a suspected terrorist plot in Johnston County, arresting Daniel Boyd, his two sons and several others, and confiscating a cache of weapons. Boyd, who converted to Islam and used the the Muslim name Saifullah, eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country.

And in recent months, Basit Sheikh, a Pakistani native who lived in Cary, landed into federal court charged with trying to join al-Qaida-linked fighters in Syria. Sheikh was arrested at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Duke Professor David Schanzer, head of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, says that while extremist attacks are rare, the threat is real.

"It's not an existential threat to our security, but it's a serious one," Schanzer said.

Along with government surveillance, like the plane equipped for electronic monitoring over Raleigh that helped nab A pair of young men stockpiling weapons in north Raleigh last spring, Schanzer wants to educate and enlist the public.

They are the "early warning system," he says. "That's really the best way we have to prevent acts of violent terrorism."

U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker, who prosecutes terror cases in eastern North Carolina, agrees that prevention requires the participation of peace-loving Muslims.

"We cannot win this war on violent extremism without engaging the Muslim community," Walker says.

He pointed to the Boyd case as an example of members of the local Muslim community alerting the FBI to suspicious activity.

"And that all goes back to communication and trust," Walker said.

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