The topic for the non-partisan Madison Forum’s regular monthly meeting was scheduled two weeks before the Boston Marathon bombing.
Michael Opitz, president of The Madison Forum, said he chose Furnish as an expert on Islamic terrorism to speak from intellect, not emotion.
Furnish said the bombing suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were Sunni Muslims and not members of al-Qaida. He said the radicalization of the brothers is not based on issues of poverty since they were educated and came from a middle-class family.
Generations who are the first in a family to live in the United States often face disenfranchisement, said Furnish, who was a professor in Istanbul for seven years. These immigrants haven’t yet found their place in American culture, but also do not fit into their birth country’s society, he said.
Forum members shared about how laws are being applied since the Boston Marathon bombing, including the implementation of virtual martial law in Boston and reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights 48 hours after his arrest.
Furnish said he believes the suspect, as a naturalized citizen, should have been mirandized immediately. The participants at the forum discussed stripping Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his rights as a U.S. citizen, which requires a high burden of proof in court in which the government must show proof that the suspect is a member of a subversive organization.
In a statement released Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia expressed disappointment that the Obama administration was not treating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, who was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property and is currently being held at a federal prison.
“Chambliss is a representative of the people. And I think he and the (citizens of Georgia) are very much aligned,” said Opitz, who ran for District 11 U.S. House Representative in 2012.
Furnish, a U.S. Army veteran, disagreed. He added that anyone captured in the United States or abroad who is not an American citizen should be subject to extreme force in interrogations.
Furbish told Saturday’s group that the United States gives out citizenship too easily. He also addressed how America has become more accepting of Islam, socially and through federal laws. This change has yet to make a difference in decreasing terrorist plots, he said.
Opitz said that to understand attacks such as the Boston Marathon bombing, elected officials should acknowldge that the foundation of Islam is to take over the world.
“Freedom as we know it cannot exist under Islam. There is no democracy under Islam,” said Opitz, who views the growth of Islam around the word not only as a religious, but a political movement.
Furnish has a more nuanced view. He said the U.S. must look at how combatants, foreign and domestic, identify themselves based on religious doctrine.
“Islam was only hijacked by extremists if you think Mohammad himself was an extremist,” said Furnish, who thinks literal interpretations of the Quran are the root of the problem.
According to Furnish, Tamerlan Tsarnaev did not follow moderates in Islam based on the videos he posted to social media. Furnish expressed that Islam has a tradition of authority and relying on imams for guidance, which results in Muslim leaders mandating actions from followers.
Opitz takes a different view.
“Large segments of the American population are asleep,” said Opitz. The problem, he said, is large segments of the voting public will support politicians based on sound bites, not on their voting records. “We must stop being political groupies.”
Opitz said The Madison Forum is a think tank made up of individuals who engage in polite passion. They focus on protecting constitutional principles.
“What we look for is someone who can process information,” Opitz said about the more than 200 members of the group, who must be extended invitations to join, and include chairmen of local boards, as well as ordinary engaged citizens.
Opitz admits it takes effort to be educated based on facts and not opinion or political spin.
“We will go right to the edge in putting out the truth,” he said. “And sometimes the truth is hard to believe.”