by Dr. Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi, Esq.
A random survey of 100 representative mosques in the U.S. was conducted to measure the correlation between Sharia adherence and dogma calling for violence against non-believers. Of the 100 mosques surveyed, 51% had texts on site rated as severely advocating violence; 30% had texts rated as moderately advocating violence; and 19% had no violent texts at all. Mosques that presented as Sharia adherent were more likely to feature violence-positive texts on site than were their non-Sharia-adherent counterparts. In 84.5% of the mosques, the imam recommended studying violence-positive texts. The leadership at Sharia-adherent mosques was more likely to recommend that a worshipper study violence-positive texts than leadership at non-Sharia-adherent mosques. Fifty-eight percent of the mosques invited guest imams known to promote violent jihad. The leadership of mosques that featured violence-positive literature was more likely to invite guest imams who were known to promote violent jihad than was the leadership of mosques that did not feature violence-positive literature on mosque premises.
The debate over the connection between Islam and its legal doctrine and system known as Sharia on the one hand and terrorism committed in the name of Islam on the other rages on among counter terrorism professionals, academics, policy experts, theologians, and politicians. Much of this debate centers on the evidence that the perpetrators of violence in the name of Islam source the moral, theological, and legal motivations and justifications for their actions in Sharia. Much of the opposition to this focus on Sharia centers on the argument that Sharia is and has been historically malleable and exploited for good and bad causes.
The authors and the editors of Perspectives on Terrorism wish to acknowledge and express gratitude to the Middle East Quarterly, which originally published the results of this study in its Summer 2011 edition (available online at http://www.meforum.org/2931/american-mosques) for granting permission to republish the results of this study in a more expansive online format.
This study seeks to enter this fray but at a more empirical level. Since we know that mosques are in fact a situs of recruitment and “radicalization” for terrorism committed in the name of Islam, this study seeks to enter into that domain to determine if there is an empirical correlation between actual, manifest Sharia-related behaviors and the presence of violent and jihad-based literature, and further, the promotion of that literature. While the presence of violent and jihad-based literature alone does not necessarily suggest the worshippers at such a mosque adopt the violent literature’s approach to the use of violence, if the imams at such mosques also promote the literature, and if those mosques are more likely to invite guest imams and speakers who are known to promote violent jihad, the presence of these factors together would be strongly suggestive of an environment prone to jihad recruitment. Thus, this study also seeks to determine if the spiritual leadership in these mosques is supportive of this genre of literature.