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Islamic Radicalization in North Carolina, United States of America

The Muslim community in North Carolina dates as far back as the 16th century. Today, the Muslim community is vibrant and tight knit with congregations throughout the state. Demographically, the Muslim population of North Carolina is composed of individuals with backgrounds hailing mostly from India, Pakistan, Iran, and various African countries. There is also a high number of white American and African American converts to Islam. The Muslim community in North Carolina makes up less than 0.5% of the total population of the state. There are approximately 50 Muslim congregations. These congregations are mostly concentrated in the Triangle Area of North Carolina. The Triangle Area encompasses the areas connecting the cities of Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh. By counting the number of types of religious centers in North Carolina, the data indicates that most Muslims adhere to the Sunni traditional view of Islam. A minority follow the Shia tradition of Islam and other forms of Islam such as the group Nation of Islam of which there is a very large presence in the state.

Organizationally, there are a total of 62 religious institutions in the state of North Carolina. These institutions are composed of mosques, masjids, religious schools, and religious centers. Many of the mosques and masjids offer religious services such as performing marriages, burial services, and daily prayers. 31 of these institutions are traditional Sunni, 4 are Salafi-Sunni, and 14 follow the Sunni tradition as espoused by the Nation of Islam. There are three religious Shia institutions and several Muslim Student Associations that are active on college campuses throughout the state. Research has uncovered several religious leaders with ties to radical Islamic organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The high number of traditional Sunni institutions indicates that the view of Sunni Islam is the mainstream practice of most Muslims in North Carolina.

The terrorist threat in North Carolina has proven to be a reality in the case of four main incidents. The thwarted terrorist plans of the Triangle Terror cell, which planned on carrying out an attack against a U.S. Marine base, illustrates the crisis of self radicalization and the radicalization of others in a group setting. Members of the cell were comprised mostly of U.S. born individuals or naturalized U.S. citizens. The case of an interstate cigarette smuggling ring run by a clandestine Hezbollah cell was successful in smuggling over $2 million worth of funds to Hezbollah headquarters in Lebanon as well as engaging in other criminal activities. The presence of Hezbollah successfully operating on North Carolina soil is a serious reminder of the potential reach of an international terrorist organization. Lastly, an attack by a self radicalized individual using an SUV on a North Carolina college campus in retaliation for his perceived Western assault on Islam illustrates the threat of lone wolf attacks on U.S. soil.

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