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Terror-fighting tangle

"Terror-fighting tangle" Continued...

Issue: "Boy Scout dilemma," May 18, 2013

But not all Muslims agree: Zuhdi Jasser—head of the American Islamic Leadership Coalition—held a smaller rally outside NYPD headquarters last year to support the police program.

Jasser says police shouldn’t spy on Muslims, but they should be free to monitor public spaces and follow leads in local communities. (NYPD officials say they follow legal standards for gathering information, and the New Jersey attorney general found the program didn’t violate his own state’s laws.)

After the Boston bombings, Jasser said the fresh attacks show the country still faces threats from radicalized Muslims. The elder Tsarnaev sometimes attended a local Boston mosque, and leaders said he had at least two outbursts during sermons since last year.

The surviving bomber said the brothers learned how to make a bomb from al-Qaeda’s online magazine Inspire. The web-based publication carries graphic instructions for carrying out a personal jihad, and a recent edition featured a sidebar:

“Whom do I work with? In these small operations, work alone. Let it be a secret between Allah and you. Make it impossible for any one to point a finger at you. This is for your safety. It is also interesting, sitting in your living room watching the news you made and how the kuffar [non-Muslims] are suffering, a tit-for-tat.”

Jasser—a physician and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam—says moderate Muslims should support police efforts to root out threats in their communities. “We should be saying we recognize we have a problem, and we need help with it,” said Jasser. “And if the leads bring them into the mosques, then so be it.”

In Los Angeles, deputy chief Downing says his department conducts outreach to religious communities, including Muslims. He says some community members have offered leads to police that have led to arrests. Downing says it’s one part of asking all citizens to be vigilant to what’s happening around them: “I think the days of staying in your own isolated world are over.”

Back in Massachusetts, pastor Chris Bass of Redeemer Fellowship Church is encouraging his congregants to build relationships with neighbors still shaken by the manhunt that shut them in their homes for more than 15 hours.

The pastor of one of the only evangelical churches in Watertown says finding normalcy isn’t easy for some: “As I talk to neighbors, there are still tears in their eyes when you get past the surface.”

Bass understands the emotion: He spent nearly 15 hours hunkered in his Watertown home with his wife and five small children while police searched for Tsarnaev. In the early morning hours, Bass kept the television volume low so he could listen for doorknobs rattling or windows breaking. He later watched SWAT teams search his backyard with guns drawn.

The pastor’s congregation of 125 meets in a church building on a street once known as “historic church row.” Today, many of the churches have closed. The former First Baptist Church across the street is now home to luxury condos. An old Methodist Church on another corner held its last service last summer. Locals have converted other empty churches to historical societies.

That leaves plenty of neighbors for Bass’ church to serve. On the Sunday after the bombing, he preached a message of God’s sovereignty in affliction and His offer of salvation to all who turn to Christ.

Bass doesn’t plan to hold out hollow hope. “At the end of the day, I don’t have a promise from God that we’re not going to get bombed again tomorrow,” he says. “So we go to where we do have promises, and where we do have hope, and it’s all tied up in the gospel.”

That doesn’t mean the church will automatically fill up. The first Sunday after the manhunt brought a handful of visitors. But Bass looks forward to his church members serving neighbors slowly, over time. “We know it’s not a sprint,” he says. “It’s a marathon.” 

OUR OWN BACKYARD: Tamerlan Tsarnaev boxing in 2009.
Glenn DePriest/Getty Images
OUR OWN BACKYARD: Tamerlan Tsarnaev boxing in 2009.
OUR OWN BACKYARD: The Islamic Society of Boston mosque where Tamerlan occasionally attended.
Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty
OUR OWN BACKYARD: The Islamic Society of Boston mosque where Tamerlan occasionally attended.
FOR AND AGAINST: Jasser at a rally in support of the NYPD and their surveillance of Muslim groups.
Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig
FOR AND AGAINST: Jasser at a rally in support of the NYPD and their surveillance of Muslim groups.
FOR AND AGAINST: A rally protesting the NYPD surveillance operations of Muslim communities.
Associated Press/Photo by Bebeto Matthews
FOR AND AGAINST: A rally protesting the NYPD surveillance operations of Muslim communities.
NEXT STEP: Downing during a news conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California.
Associated Press/Photo by Damian Dovarganes
NEXT STEP: Downing during a news conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California.
NEXT STEP: Bass preaching on April 21, the first Sunday after the bombing.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
NEXT STEP: Bass preaching on April 21, the first Sunday after the bombing.
ON WATCH: New York City Police Department Counter Terrorism Unit officers keep an eye out in Times Square.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
ON WATCH: New York City Police Department Counter Terrorism Unit officers keep an eye out in Times Square.

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Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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