Reportage of the brutal attack on U.S. Marines in Tennessee July 16 carried a well-thought out message by the U.S. government. In statements to the media, the FBI made it clear: the gunman was a “homegrown violent extremist” who acted on his own.
The message was not a holding pattern – words chosen by the FBI until more facts were in about the case. Rather, it was part of a national strategy instituted by the U.S. government. Speaking at the recent Aspen Institute’s annual security forum, the head of U.S. Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson said it was “critical” to call such Islamic terror attacks “violent extremism” to “build trust” and “cooperation” with the Muslim community.
Johnson was pressed by the moderator, who asked, “Isn't government denying the fundamental religious component of this kind of extremism by not using the word Islamic?"
"I could not disagree more," Johnson replied, stating the oft-trotted out Islam "is about peace."
Putting aside the argument that to be able to fight the phenomenon of Islamic terror, one has to be able to name it, it is plainly a strategy that has failed — primarily because the Muslims whom the government is trying to appease are the very ones supporting the same extremist ideology –Islamism –that drives the terrorists.
Whether “armchair” or active terrorists, the end-point of Islamists is the same: the political manifestation of Islam, i.e., the establishment of a caliphate that rules the entire world under sharia (Islamic) law.
One can argue there are violent and non-violent Islamists – however the argument is moot in that the only difference between the two is in the methodology employed to reach their goal.
Moreover, while the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest worldwide Islamist organization, officially espouses non-violence and adheres to a strategy of “gradualism,” the Brotherhood has not hesitated to use violence when the need has arisen.
Just this week, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Sheikh Yousef Qaradawi allowed the use of suicide bombings, including the resultant civilian casualties, under quite broad circumstances. (A few day later he back-tracked, saying that he only supported suicide bombing for those Muslims living in Israel. However, since Palestinians were now able to attack Israel with rockets, missiles and mortars, suicide bombing are no longer necessary.)
During the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, violence also reigned – from using strong-armed tactics to prevent opposition voters from reaching the polls to positioning bands of supporters in public squares to gang-rape women to discourage them from being part of the political process to burning down “infidel” churches.
Last week, the FBI reported it is carrying out terrorism investigations in all 50 states of the union. According to the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul, in addition to the Islamist terror attacks that have not been preventable, U.S. law enforcement has been successful in stopping “over 60” Islamic State plots so far this year,
Yet, the Muslims who are the true partners of the U.S. government and system of democracy – the non-Islamist and reformist Muslims — have repeatedly and pointedly been left out in the cold by the U.S. government. Moreover, these Muslims, who most likely represent the majority of American Muslims, would welcome an effort led by the government to call a spade a spade and weed out the Islamists among them.
Activists from this community have made that clear. Yet instead, the government has fruitlessly engaged with Islamists.
In 2011, the FBI and the military edited its training curriculum to conform to the Muslim Brotherhood’s definition of non-offensive material for counterterrorism training.
President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address made it clear he believes Islamic terrorists are driven by frustration over perceived injustices at the hands of the West, rather than an ideology.
The White House Countering Violent Extremism Summit featured Islamists known for preaching those same themes the White House cited as part of the problem.
The White House has continually hosted Muslim Brotherhood-linked leaders as well as other Islamist leaders linked to terror groups; in the main, they have not invited anti-Islamist Muslim leaders. In addition, an official Department of Homeland Security document advises government agencies against teaching in their counterterrorism training courses about the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and to shun the opnions of “Muslim reformers.”
The U.S. needs to follow the lead of the UK, whose prime minister, David Camron, recently said in a landmark speech about Islamism, “Simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work …
“Our new approach is about isolating the extremists from everyone else, so that all our Muslim communities can be free from the poison of Islamist extremism.”
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org