Viewpoint: Where are the sleeper cells?

March 16, 2002

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days, but the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, and the ranking member, Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, concur there are at least 100 al-Qaida operatives hiding in the United States. Graham says they pose an ‘‘immediate threat'' to our security. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said virtually the same thing in the March 4 Washington Times, warning of terrorist sleeper cells in the United States.

The magnitude of the problem confronting law enforcement officials searching for these killers-in-hiding is revealed by the Department of Justice. Spokesman Dan Nelson says that following the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. authorities arrested 560 terror suspects. Some were released after investigations failed to turn up evidence that would justify their continuing to be held. As of last week, Nelson says 327 remain in detention and under investigation.

Of far greater concern is what Nelson says are ‘‘314,000 absconders,'' people who've been ordered deported but law enforcement cannot find them. These are aliens in the United State illegally because they've violated their visa status. Nelson says deportations will increase as each case is processed. But with 314,000 ‘‘absconders,'' this is bound to be laborious and time-consuming. Can we afford to wait?


While waiting (and hopefully not long) for the deportations to begin, perhaps something can be done about the training grounds of hate on American soil. The Washington Post has carried several stories on Islamic schools in the Washington area that teach Muslim children that ‘‘the Day of Judgment can't come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews.'' It's that last part that ought to be of concern.

The Post reports there are ‘‘about a dozen'' of these schools between Baltimore and Richmond and 200 to 300 nationwide, with at least 30,000 students. Thousands of other students attend Islamic weekend schools, the Post reports. One of the schools profiled by the newspaper is the Islamic Saudi Academy in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. An 11th-grade textbook at the school says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say, ‘‘Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.'' The Saudi government subsidizes the school, whose role in educating students in the extremist Wahabi brand of Islam has been widely reported.

A recent letter to the editor of the Post from Elihu D. Stone of Sharon, Mass., expressed the concern felt by many Americans over what is being taught in some Islamic schools: ‘‘Saudi Arabia is supposed to be a member of the coalition against terror, yet it is exporting to schools on our shores an ideology that supports terror over civics,'' Stone wrote. Students at many of these schools are not required to take U.S. history.

Another Post letter was even more to the point. Thomas A. DiMaggio, of York, Pa., wrote regarding the same curriculum: ‘‘When this (anti-Semitic) filth is brought to the attention of a member of one of the state accrediting authorities, the most he can muster by way of outrage is to say that his organization does not delve into curriculum extensively, but that it would be concerned about such material being taught.''

It's time to be more than concerned. Any school — whether Muslim or white supremacist — that teaches hate and encourages violence should not be accredited by a state and, in fact, should be shut down. In the name of tolerance and academic freedom, we have allowed schools to proliferate that teach ideas antithetical to the American way of life and are a threat to the very existence of our country. This is sedition. Those who hate us are using our openness and good will against us.

We will continue to tolerate this at our peril. In fact, the peril is already here as demonstrated six months ago on Sept. 11.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles