During the Obama administration, a Senate hearing on the federal government’s approach to Islamic terrorism was titled “Willful Blindness: Consequences of Agency Efforts To Deemphasize Radical Islam in Combating Terrorism.”
Despite signs that the new Trump administration intends to reform a politically correct national security policy, euphemistically called Countering Violent Extremism, and begin naming the enemy, the rhetoric of Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggests the government’s fundamental assumptions about the threat haven’t changed.
Kelly told the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday that the perpetrators of attacks during the Islamic month of Ramadan have “corrupted” Islam, and he suggested Christian and Jewish beliefs are also causing terrorism, Breitbart reported.
“As far as Ramadan goes, you know, first of all, the uptick in violence and activities is done by a very, very small percentage of people who have just corrupted the whole concept of Islam as a religion; but it is what it is,” Kelly told the chairman of the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
On his Jihad Watch website, Robert Spencer summarized the DHS chief’s response: “More denial and willful ignorance from the administration that promised to drain the swamp.”
Kelly indicated attention needs to be focused on the Internet, urging businesses to block access to “some” websites.
“The one constant that I have seen, Mr. Chairman, since I have been in this job, the one constant in all of this has been the Internet. … The one constant is the Internet. I’m not blaming the Internet but I’m just saying that we probably need to step back, and say, maybe [have] stricter rules on what is hung on the Internet,” he said.
Similarly, President Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, told his staff in February that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are “perverting their religion,” the New York Times reported, citing people at the meeting.
McMaster said the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic.”
The Times quote William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, saying there is “a deep hunger for McMaster’s view in the interagency,” referring to the process by which the State Department, Pentagon and other agencies funnel recommendations through the National Security Council.
In his speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last month to Muslim political leaders, President Trump appeared to distance himself from campaign rhetoric that suggested Islam itself is the problem.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it,” the president said.
DHS denies funding to Islamic group
There are indications, however, that DHS policy is changing. The department recently ruled the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council – a group founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood – will not receive the $393,800 Countering Violent Extremism grant approved by Obama’s DHS secretary, Jeh Johnson, on Jan. 13, days before Johnson left office, reported the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
The change came after “DHS utilized its discretion to consider other factors and information when reviewing applicants,” a spokeswoman said in an email to IPT.
“The Department considered whether applicants for CVE awards would partner with law enforcement, had a strong basis of prior experience in countering violent extremism, had a history of prior efforts to implement prevention programs targeting violent extremism, and were viable to continue after the end of the award period.”
IPT said MPAC “has followed a consistent pattern of defending designated terrorist organizations and their supporters, opposing U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric.” In 2003, for example MPAC opposed the designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups.
What about the mosques?
Spencer said Kelly should examine Quran verses 47:4 or 9:5, which provide a direct incitement to violence urging Muslims to “kill the polytheists wherever you find them” and “strike the necks” of unbelievers.
Pointing the blame at the Internet also ignores the danger of Islamic teachings in U.S-based mosques, said Spencer.
“We’ve seen again and again that there are jihadis who are very active in their mosques and yet nobody will monitor them, so he has to find some scapegoat … [and] he finds it with the Internet, which is practically a cliche,” he said.
“I just hope that his politically correct euphemism don’t lead him to waste time and resources charging down what he knows are blind alleys.”
Not just ‘over there’
Former Department of Homeland Security officer Philip Haney served under both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.
“The language General Kelly used is pretty similar to the language we heard in the previous administration,” he said.
Haney, who testified at the “Willful Blindness” hearing one year ago, noted that a recent government study shows the Obama Countering Violent Extremism program had no criteria to determine whether or not it was effective.
“At the very least, we should address those gaps and develop criteria that will enable us to evaluate whether the policy actually works,” he said.
He emphasized that violent jihad is a doctrine of mainstream Islam, noting Islamic scholars have stated that during Ramadan, the reward for attacks is multiplied 70 times.
Haney testified to the Senate in June 2016 that the Obama administration “purged” more than 800 of his records related to the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S. because they somehow were an offense to Muslims.
Haney said that the “threat of Islamic terrorism does not just come from a network of armed organizations such as Hamas and ISIS, who are operating ‘over there’ in the Middle East.”
“In fact, branches of the same global network have been established here in America, and they are operating in plain sight – at least to those of us who have been charged with the duty of protecting our country from threats, both foreign and domestic,” he said.
Haney also told Congress a highly successful case he helped develop as a member of one of the National Targeting Center’s advanced units was shut down by Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties out of concern for the “rights” of foreign Muslims. And after Haney retired honorably in 2015, he discovered that had his case continued, it might have prevented both the Orlando and the San Bernardino attacks.
Along with the quashing of the case in June 2012, the administration subsequently ordered the deletion of an additional 67 records concerning a related network.