Why Fighting Terrorism Is Not Just a War of Ideas

Fighting terrorism is more than a war of ideas and a battle of words. If we understand the message (read propaganda) of violent extremists, then logically speaking, we should be able to craft counter messages that defeat their weak ideological reasoning.  But is it that simple? Can we expect religious leaders, for example, to fight extremists with narratives alone? In a new opinion piece, … [Read more...]

Muslims Fighting For Understanding (And The Survival) Of Their Faith

For centuries, Muslims have been fighting for understanding and the survival of their faith. Numerous books on rebellion, revolution and resistance offer an intimate portrayal of an isolated people struggling to change and grow and connect. As I was growing up, I was fascinated by women in conflict. My mother told me stories of her war-time days in Pakistan when she joined the Army. And then in … [Read more...]

Travel to China: Inside A 700 Year Old Mosque in Xian City

In a recent travel to China, I visited the ancient city of Xian and discovered a 700 year old mosque layered with history and tradition. The entrance felt like a Zen garden with shades of green and Arabic letters of the Quran carved in stone and wood. As I walked quietly and slowly along the ancient stone, a gray-bearded man with small eyes and a kind face followed.  "I am the imam," he said, … [Read more...]

Violent Recruitment Online For Muslim Girls Continues

At speaking events, I’m often asked how one connects with religious extremists online and how violent recruitment takes place for Muslim girls. It’s simple. A girl begins by conducting a simple search for propaganda literature such as a film on YouTube. She clicks on the site and hits the “Like” button. Or perhaps she finds comments posted on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites that … [Read more...]

More Girls and Women Are Joining Violent Groups And Here’s Why

Violent extremists are masterminds at exploiting empathy and giving girls and women a false sense of hope. Over the past five years, an astonishing number of girls and women have joined violent groups. Statistically, the numbers are low and no more than fifty females have tried to join ISIS or offer ideological, material, and financial support. While the number may seem low, it is a sign that the … [Read more...]

What Does Islam Say About Mercy?

  One of the most meaningful messages I have received from Muslim scholars is the concept of God's mercy and His forgiveness. There are numerous words in Arabic for mercy, although two words that appear frequently in the Quran are: Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim, which mean "The Most Gracious" and "The Most Merciful." In my line of work, as a Muslim woman countering violent extremism, I explain that … [Read more...]

Why American Muslims Celebrate The Fourth of July

American Muslims celebrate the fourth of July for the most obvious reason: they, too, are grateful to be here. There are many reasons to celebrate this glorious holiday. As an American woman, I grew up here. I spent my childhood in Texas and then moved to Washington, DC for graduate school and government work. This is the number one reason former immigrants like myself honor the national holiday: … [Read more...]

Conflict in America: Children Separated From Their Families Sparks Ongoing Immigration Debate

  Stories of children separated from their families is heart-breaking enough in conflicts around the world, but this time, it's happening right here in America. And it gets worse. There is a plethora of first-hand reporting and interviews of the trauma and terrible incidents taking place in US-funded centers for immigrant children, such as forcing children to take drugs. See video … [Read more...]

The Forever War in Kashmir Is Marked By Shame And Trauma

The Kashmir conflict has become the forever war, a place where suffering is increasingly psychological and people marked by shame, fear, alienation, anguish, stress, trauma and unimaginable loneliness. It is here in "paradise on earth" that I discovered the most memorable women. I'm often amazed at how meeting one person at one time in one place can change you. In an earlier post, I wrote a … [Read more...]

If Islam Is A Loving, Peaceful Religion, Then Why Do Muslims Kill?

It's an oft-repeated question: If Islam is a loving, peaceful religion, then why do some Muslims kill? For nearly 20 years, as a researcher first then a counter-terrorism analyst, I have tried to answer this question. I traveled to over 70 countries to meet people in their homes, offices, and prisons to offer an answer to a complex question. What's the answer to radicalization? We've been asking … [Read more...]

One Mother Tells A Story About Her Son Joining ISIS

I received a personal note from England to share this harrowing story of a mother whose son joined ISIS from England. At first, I was startled to watch the documentary and learn that the mother, a Muslim convert, was anything but ignorant about the faith or her profession. She converted to Islam at a young age and raised her children to be respectful and loving. She says they are a tight-knit … [Read more...]

Understanding Islam

In 2005, I had an experience that changed my life when I was asked to explain the history of Islam and modern-day conflicts to hundreds of U.S. military Captains. I was invited to Maxwell Air Force Base by the Commandant and asked to deliver a lecture on why Muslims are fighting each other in the Arab world.  Why are Sunnis and Shias battling each other?  What caused the split? And how do their … [Read more...]

A New Book on Islam, Women, and Counter-Terrorism

  Twenty years of research on women, Islam and terrorism is captured in a new book and written as a collection of stories. I traveled to numerous cities and countries in the Muslim world, including Western countries, to answer this oft-repeated question: If Islam is a loving and peaceful religion, why do some Muslim women kill? What are the reasons why some women and girls join violent … [Read more...]

A Muslim Artist Showcases Islam As a Peaceful, Loving Religion

A Muslim artist in New York city uses calligraphy, watercolor, ceramics and glass to showcase Islam's rich history and artistic expression. Through art, Mohsin uses vivid colors to send a powerful message: Islam is a peaceful religion that values science, philosophy, and and the arts, of course. "One of my goals in life is to be a bridge between various communities and societies," he told … [Read more...]

A Shooting in San Bruno Raises Questions About Safety in America

On Tuesday afternoon, a shooting in San Bruno, California is raising questions about safety in America. Again, an active shooter is at large and has proven how easy it is to perpetrate a deadly attack against a civilian target. This time, around lunchtime, the attacker gunned down several people at 901 Cheery Avenue, the address of the YouTube office.  It's too early to tell who is responsible. … [Read more...]

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