Terrorism Hits Wisconsin
For many Wisconsin residents or residents of the American Midwest in general, radical Islam can seem like an issue which has no real effect over their way of life at home. Those who have felt the consequences of radicalization and the War on Terror get their share of reality when a friend or family member serve in one of the many theaters of operation the US military is currently in. Not many, living in Superior, Madison and every little town in between, would suspect their neighbor and mother of two to be recruiting for the Islamic State from within Wisconsin’s borders.
Islamic extremism is not the only type of radicalized religious ideology, nor is it a new development. Several different situations can motivate someone to support radical organizations. Contrary to popular belief, those who choose to radicalize, especially if they are recruited from areas outside of each group’s operational centers, are not usually limited by a lack of education or economic downfalls – they instead choose to radicalize because they sincerely believe the propaganda put out by members of the aforementioned groups and their counterparts. (Deverajan, et al.)
Much of the radical mindset stems from Islamic fundamentalism which utilizes select pieces of Islamic teaching, the Quran, and Hadith, to rationalize violence against those who do not or will not believe in the Islamic message. As stated, none of this is a new development, believing so would thwart the efforts to combat radicalization. Equally defeating would be to believe that radicalization is disappearing or that the American Midwest cannot be touched due to its seclusion in the heart of the United States. Defeating radical Islam, just like defeating any radical ideology, is a tedious process which requires attention from those who might even think themselves immune.
Recently, Wisconsin has shown to be a breeding ground for the spread of radical Islam. This does not mean that the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites are actively seeking out ways to allow the message of radicalization to slip into their daily lives and routines. Instead, most of the radicalization which happens in Wisconsin and the Midwest, comes because the citizens are unaware of its presence. The most recent situation relating to radicalized Islam occurred in Cudahy, a city of just over 18,000 people, just south of Milwaukee. (suburbanstats.org) Waheba Issa Dais was taken into federal custody, charged with “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” (Spivak, Diedrich) According to the FBI, Dais was aiding in the planning and creation of different types of weapons as well as providing plans for an attack. On top of these charges, Dais had pledged allegiance to the radical group ISIS and expressed her desire to travel overseas in support of their operations. (Spivak, Diedrich)
During January of 2016, a similar unfolding of events brought Wisconsin’s residents under the examination glass. In Milwaukee, a plot to kill over 30 Masonic followers was foiled by federal agents. Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, who was 23 at the time, had originally planned on traveling to the West Bank in an attempt to carry out an attack on Israeli soldiers and citizens located there but instead decided an attack within the United States was more practical for his situation. Hamzeh, luckily, was being tracked by undercover FBI agents who arrested him when he attended what he believed would be a weapon purchase. (ABC News)
Both the Dais and Hamzeh cases show that the Midwest is not immune from Islamic extremism and the threats posed by such. Minnesota felt the effects of radicalization when 7 of its citizens made the journey overseas to join radical Islamic terrorist organizations, a problem which might have been prevented at home before the choice to radicalize was made. (Meleagrou-Hitchens, et al.) The ideology of those choosing to plan, assist in, or carry out operations which helps radical groups is irrational, as demonstrated by Dais’ willingness to put her family at risk, but it is not specific to a single area on the globe. To believe that the problems of radicalization or terrorism will be contained in faraway lands is self-defeating. Ignorance of the issues, either intentional or not, causes issues when developing a plan to move forward.
Midwestern residents need to understand that the issue of radicalization can and will affect even the smallest town in Wisconsin if it is allowed to. In a recent poll done by the Center for Security Policy, 51% of the 600 Muslims questioned claimed that there should be a choice in how laws affect individuals – claiming that there should be a choice of persecution by current United States law or under the rules of Sharia Law. (Center for Security Policy) Allowing this kind of attitude, that only certain types of law should apply to certain types of people, only aids the movement towards radicalization. Sharia law has always maintained traditions which oppress different people for characteristics which are immutable, such as gender, and will always fail to mesh with the American way of life. Understanding the problem and fighting from the forefront against radicalization puts Wisconsinites in a successful position to move forward. Actions similar to those of Dias and Hamzeh are preventable with education and engagement from the residents all around Wisconsin and the Midwest.
ABC News. “Feds Thwart Alleged Plot to Attack Masonic Temple in Wisconsin.” ABC News,
ABC News Network, 26 Jan. 2016, abcnews.go.com/ABCNews/feds-thwart-alleged-plot-attack-masonic-temple-wisconsin/story?id=36534503.
Meleagrou-Hitchens, Alexander, et al. The Travelers: American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq, extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/TravelersAmericanJihadistsinSyriaandIraq.pdf.
Devarajan, Shantayanan; Mottaghi, Lili; Do, Quy-Toan; Brockmeyer, Anne; Joubert, Clement Jean Edouard; Bhatia, Kartika; Abdel Jelil, Mohamed; Shaban, Radwan Ali; Chaal-Dabi, Isabelle; Lenoble, Nathalie. 2016. Economic and social inclusion to prevent violent extremism (English). Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Economic Monitor. Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/409591474983005625/Economic-and-social-inclusion-to-prevent-violent-extremism
“Poll of U.S. Muslims Reveals Ominous Levels Of Support For Islamic Supremacists’ Doctrine of Shariah, Jihad.” Center for Security Policy, 16 Dec. 2015, www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/06/23/nationwide-poll-of-us-muslims-shows-thousands-support-shariah-jihad/.
Spivak, Cary, and John Diedrich. “Cudahy Mother Charged in Terrorism Plot to Use Facebook to Promote ISIS, FBI Says.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, 14 June 2018, www.jsonline.com/story/news/crime/2018/06/13/cudahy-mother-charge-terrorism-plot-use-facebook-promote-isis/699871002/.
suburbanstats.org. “Current Cudahy, Wisconsin Population, Demographics and Stats in 2017, 2018.” SuburbanStats.org, suburbanstats.org/population/wisconsin/how-many-people-live-in-cudahy.