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Radical Islam finds US to be 'sterile ground'

Home-grown terror cells are largely missing in action, a contrast to Europe's situation.

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The Islamist radicalism that inspired young Muslims to attack their own countries – in London, Madrid, and Bali – has not yielded similar incidents in the United States, at least so far.

"Home-grown" terror cells remain a concern of US law officers, who cite several disrupted plots since 9/11. But the suspects' unsophisticated planning and tiny numbers have led some security analysts to conclude that America, for all its imperfections, is not fertile ground for producing jihadist terrorists.

To understand why, experts point to people like Omar Jaber, an AmeriCorps volunteer; Tarek Radwan, a human rights advocate; and Hala Kotb, a consultant on Middle East affairs. They are the face of young Muslim-Americans today – educated, motivated, and integrated into society – and their voices help explain how the nation's history of inclusion has helped to defuse sparks of Islamist extremism.

"American society is more into the whole assimilation aspect of it," says New York-born Mr. Jaber. "In America, it's a lot easier to practice our religion without complications."

In a nation where mosques have sprung up alongside churches and synagogues, where Muslim women are free to wear the hijab (or not), and where education and job opportunities range from decent to good, the resentments that can breed extremism do not seem very evident in the Muslim community. Since 9/11, however, concern is rising among Muslim-Americans that they are becoming targets of bias and suspicion – by law enforcement as well as fellow citizens. It's a disquieting trend, say the young Muslims – one that might eventually help radicalism to grow.

It's impossible to pinpoint the factors that produce home-grown terrorists, analysts say. But it's also impossible to ignore the stark contrast between the lives of Muslims in European countries where bombings have occurred and those of Muslims in America.

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