Radical mosques are the spark lighting the fuse that can kill Americans. That has killed Americans. That will kill more if we let it. Such killing sprees, moreover, are plotted by young, male, Muslim militants who often enter to the United States on student and other visas from places known to sponsor or export terrorism.
None of this is news. But it is cloaked in taboo. Thus, controversy was stoked last week when Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts governor and potential Republican 2008 presidential hopeful, did something that you should never do in this country. Not, at least, if you want to escape the caterwauling of civil liberties extremists and a cacophony of activist Muslim organizations whose knee-jerk approach to "opposing" terror is indignant spewing at every effort made to prevent it.
He told the truth.
Gov. Romney suggested that in the ongoing war, we ought to be investigating mosques that preach Islamic militancy and the young men who come to this country from rogue precincts of the Islamic world.
For giving voice to such a notion, Romney's comeuppance is to have the usual suspects screaming for an apology.
Instead, we should be giving him a medal.
Monitoring radical mosques is exactly what we ought to be doing if we want to avoid domestic terror attacks on the United States. It should be the top priority. And not due to conjecture. We know for certain, and we have known for many years, that modern terrorists are inspired by the Islamic extremism they are routinely fed in mosques -- whether here, or in Europe. Not all mosques, but many of them.
In the late 1980s, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in New York City began noticing the activities of a group of Muslim men whose center of gravity was the Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn. On several occasions in 1989, JTTF agents watched as the men converged on the mosque in the early morning, loaded their cars with boxes and bags from inside, and caravanned out to Calverton, Long Island (occasionally pulling off the road for prayer breaks). Once there, they made way to a range where they would spend hours shooting handguns and AK-47s at targets.
Just imagine for a moment if that were all we really knew and the FBI proceeded nonetheless to wiretap them. Can't you just hear it now? Can't you just hear the Muslim interest groups and their fans in the media running through the talking points? "It's a mosque, a sacrosanct house of worship. The guns were legal. Shooting is legal -- that's why we have firing ranges. Prayer on the side of the road? That's indicative of piety -- nothing suspicious about that...."
But of course, it's not all we know about them, because the agents took pictures. These totally non-suspicious young men engaging in First and Second Amendment protected activity included a couple of Palestinians named Mohammed Salameh and Nidal Ayyad, along with their Egyptian friend, Mahmud Abouhalima -- a trio who would bomb the World Trade Center three years later. They included the Egyptian Sayyid Nosair (known around the mosque as the "emir of marksmanship"), who would soon murder Rabbi Meir Kahane at a New York City hotel, be captured only after he'd attempted to murder a 70-year-old man and a federal police officer while trying to get away, and later help plan the WTC attack from his jail cell. And they included an American named Clement Hampton-El (a.k.a. "Doctor Rasheed"), who, like Abouhalima, was a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan and would later conspire with other mosque associates -- Egyptians, Sudanese, and a Palestinian -- in a failed plot to bomb the United Nations complex, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the FBI's Manhattan headquarters.
The men were not just playing target practice. The shooting range sessions were coupled with trips to other rural areas to get down to real paramilitary business -- explosives, assault techniques, and the like. We know that, among other reasons, because they recorded themselves reporting on it to their chosen imam, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric and leader of Egypt's deadly Islamic Group (Gamaat al Islamia) who would relocate to the United States in mid-1990 and immediately take to preaching in Farooq, as well as other New York and New Jersey mosques.
We know, too, what was in these "religious" lectures by the Blind Sheikh and other radical imams. That's because while the Muslim interest groups and the libertarian activists don't want the FBI recording what goes on in the mosques, the militants themselves made an industry out of recording these "sermons" -- and distributing them widely for recruitment and fundraising purposes.