Just google the terms "homegrown terrorism" and "violent radicalism" and you will see how seriously law enforcement and intelligence agencies are taking the threat of young Western Muslims becoming radicalized to the point that they either travel overseas to engage in militant Jihad or prepare to carry out acts of terror within their own countries.
There seem to be two broad approaches to the problem. One is to minimize or pay little attention to the belief system of the radical, and only put him or her on the radar screen when there is evidence they are actually planning a terrorist operation. This seems to be the general principle of law enforcement agencies, and theoretically fits in well with the American ideal that you can believe anything you want as long as you don't disobey the law. The second approach, adopted by the current administration with the appointment of radicalization czar Professor Quintan Wiktorowicz to the National Security Council, includes engaging Muslim scholars such as Dr. Tawfik Hamid, whom I have written about here, to deradicalize the belief system of young Muslims. The idea seems to be that moderate Muslims are to show extremist Muslims how they understand Muhammad, the Quran, and Jihad all wrong.
I have a problem with both approaches. My objection to the first is that belief is important, with one's system of belief laying the groundwork for action to come. The reason I could never be enticed in a thousand years by a FBI sting operation to set off a bomb in Times Square or bring down an aircraft with explosives hidden in my underwear is that there is nothing in my belief system allowing me to do that. If I believed it was a noble thing to do that would gain me the pleasure of Allah, it might be a different story.
My problem with the second approach is that when it comes to the Quran, the Hadith, and the Ghazawat or wars of Muhammad, the extremist wins every time. Anyone well-versed in Ilm Al Sharia, or Islamic law, will laugh at Dr. Hamid's protestations that the Quranic exhortations to kill Al Mushrikun, the unbelievers, only referred to the unbelievers of Muhammad's day because the Quran uses the definite article the unbelievers. The definite article is the default article in Arabic grammar; even a simple proverb like "Patience is a virtue" becomes "The patience is a virtue" in Arabic.
Here's a radical approach to deradicalization. The irreducible conviction of every Muslim, radical or moderate, is that Muhammad Rasoul Allah, Muhammad is the Prophet of God. That is either true or false. If it is true, we should all convert to Islam and become Muslims - you and I, Hilary Clinton, Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga included. If it is not true, we should all exert considerable effort to present historical and moral evidence to the Muslim Ummah that Laysa Muhammad Rasoul Allah - Muhammad is not a Prophet of God (something I did here and in the following dozen or so posts). Were we to be successful, that might make the deradicalization of radicalized young Muslims much more effective.
The predictable and immediate response of many people to my suggestion above is that it is both impractical and impossible - Muslims, they say, will never abandon Muhammad. I think that is a condescending attitude that underestimates the intelligence of still-believing Muslims. We as non-Muslims, after all, have reached the conclusion that Muhammad was not a Prophet of God, and many thousands of ex-Muslims have done the same. Why should we assume we and they are more intelligent and capable of critical thought than those who still believe?