Joel Mowbray

When asked if recently ?detained? National Guard soldier Ryan Anderson?who allegedly tried to pass on sensitive information to al Qaeda?was a Muslim, the unit spokesman, Lt. Col. Stephen Barger replied, ?Religious preferences are an individual right and responsibility, and I really can?t get into it.?

  On one level, of course, Barger is right.  Sadly, however, Anderson?s religion may be the only prism through which his alleged behavior can be understood.

  Various media reports have pegged Anderson as a convert to Islam.  Why is this significant? 

  Because if he had converted to Buddhism or Hindu, for example, he almost certainly would not have not been caught up in a sting operation that found him trying to deliver to al Qaeda closely-guarded details about vulnerabilities and capabilities of armed tanks and Humvees.

  This is obviously not to suggest that Muslims cannot be trusted or that, as a group, they should be viewed with suspicion.  But it is just as true that Anderson?s reported conversion to Islam cannot be ignored.

  We call our struggle against al Qaeda and the rest of the worldwide terror network the ?War on Terror.?  But to al Qaeda and its ilk, it is not a ?war.?  It is a Jihad.

  In a Jihad, where the terrorists unite under the rallying cry of defeating the Infidels in the name of Islam, the most likely?if not the only?people to betray America in order to help the enemy are going to be Muslim. 

  That group of Muslims willing to commit horrific acts is certainly tiny, but a tiny number of Benedict Arnolds is all al Qaeda needs to wreak enormous havoc.

  And as anyone who knows folks who have converted to <i>any</i> religion can attest, the converts often become, for lack of a better expression, hard-core.  ?Hard-core? indeed sounds harsh, as most passionate converts are devout in the best sense.  Yet from the likes of John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla, converts can become among the most radical. 

  Should Anderson have been denied the opportunity to serve his country because he is a convert to Islam?  Of course not.  But just as we give psych exams and various personality tests to soldiers, thorough examination of Islamic converts?at the least?would not seem to be such a bad idea.  And for people working in sensitive positions, then rigorous screening would seem to be nothing if not prudent.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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