Disturbed by terrorist bombing attempts in England and Scotland, the head of Milwaukee’s Islamic Society has decried supporters of such violence and endorsed a task force report by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs that cautions against marginalizing Muslims in the United States.

Othman Atta, a Milwaukee attorney and president of the society, had strong words for radical Muslim clerics in England who have justified bombings of civilians.

“To be frank, if I was in England and I was in control of the laws, I would deport someone who came out with those kind of statements,” Atta said. “I don’t believe there is any place for that kind of rhetoric in any society. I really don’t.”

The Chicago report, “Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” was released last month. The national task force was co-chaired by Lynn Martin, a former Illinois congresswoman and former U.S. secretary of labor, and Farooq Kathwari of New Rochelle, N.Y., president and chief executive of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., one of the largest U.S. furniture chains.

It cites independent studies that say that, unlike in Europe, there is little, if any, publicly available evidence here of widespread or entrenched extremist activity with links to global terrorist organizations. Yet it notes that the voices of Muslim-American leaders and organizations are not being heard by the American public, some of whom continue to view Muslim-Americans with suspicion and question the compatibility of Islam with American values.

“The gathering climate of suspicion and mutual mistrust, exacerbated by the lack of engagement and dialogue, threatens to marginalize and alienate some Muslim Americans to the point where the danger of radicalization of a small minority could become a real possibility,” the report’s executive summary says.

“It would take only a single, significant act of terrorism in the United States involving Muslim Americans to cement the impression that rampant radicalism has taken root in the community.

“Therefore, the task force believes that creating full and equal opportunities for civic and political participation of Muslim Americans is an urgent national need. It is vital that Muslim Americans find ways to demonstrate visibly their commitment to America, its institutions and its values,” the report says.

Muslims in the United States are more integrated into the middle class and have higher educational levels than Muslims in Europe, Atta said. But he fears that those gains could be lost amid a stream of negative views and stereotypes of Islam by bloggers and some conservative talk shows and right-wing groups with agendas.

The paradox in this is that several foreign-born doctors or medical students have been arrested as suspects in the recent failed bombing attempts in London and Glasgow.

“I was seriously, obviously troubled, not only with these physicians, but even in the (earlier) attacks on the subway,” Atta said. “I still have a hard time understanding how individuals who are living in these countries are able to basically go out and commit these kinds of atrocities. . . . I really cannot understand it. To see that these are supposedly doctors, it’s appalling, to be frank.”


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