French authorities announced Wednesday they shut down three mosques for an alleged “pattern of radicalization,” but terrorism analysts said such tactics are unlikely to be repeated in the USA.
Though a few small European mosques have been taken over by radicals — and it has happened in the USA — that’s not the trend anymore, said Evan Kohlmann, an analyst at the New York-based threat intelligence firm Flashpoint.
“Anyone in this country that gets the least reputation for being a known radicalizer is immediately investigated by the FBI,” Kohlmann said. “People with connections to extremists are investigated and removed from their positions.”
The French raid was conducted under the terms of a prolonged state of emergency instituted after the terrorist attacks Nov. 13 in Paris that left 130 people dead. Islamic State extremists claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The state of emergency, which was passed by parliament, is in effect until February and allows authorities wide latitude in conducting searches, making arrests and banning public gatherings.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve defended such tough measures, saying, “It is the terrorism that is the threat to freedom, not the state of emergency.”
Cazaneuve said Wednesday that a “large police contingent” closed one mosque in Lagny-sur- Marne, a suburb in eastern Paris, placing nine “radicalized individuals” under house arrest and barring 22 from leaving the country.
In the raid, police confiscated a 9mm handgun, a computer hard drive hidden behind a wall and jihadist propaganda. Cazaneuve said police discovered documents about an unregistered Quranic school.
“U.S. law does not prohibit hate speech….”
Two other mosques, one in Gennevilliers in the northwest suburbs and one in Lyon, were closed within the past week. The interior minister referred to the three mosques as “pseudo-religious associations.”
The Lagny mosque was set up in 2010 and run by Mohamed Hammoumi, 34, who was described as a “radicalized Islamist,” according to French TV station iTélé.
The Interior minister said French authorities have conducted 2,235 searches, made 263 arrests and seized 334 weapons, including 34 military-grade weapons, since last month’s attacks on several bars and restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium in Paris.
Kohlmann said radicalization has not been the trend in U.S. mosques, even where they’ve had extremist clerics, such as Anwar al-Awlaki, who preached in Falls Church, Va., from 2001 to 2002. Awlaki later moved to his parents’ homeland in Yemen, where he became a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was killed in 2010 in a U.S. drone strike.
One of the differences with Europe is that U.S. law does not prohibit hate speech, unless such speech calls for imminent violence, said Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
If there are weapons and obvious inclination to violence, the Department of Homeland Security can investigate, Jasser said.
“Europe has a bigger problem with radical Islam because many of their countries have hate speech laws, which pushes these groups underground, which makes monitoring them much more difficult,” he said.