Open Letter to National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ is Accurate and ‘Helpful’

Gatestone Institute, by A. Z. Mohamed, April 25, 2017:

  • In other words, as al-Kalbani has confirmed — and contrary to what McMaster has been telling his staff and his commander-in-chief, President Trump — Muslim terrorists are Islamic, and the term “radical Islamic terrorism” is apt, accurate and extremely “helpful.”

During his first “all hands” staff meeting on February 23, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, called terrorism “un-Islamic” and the term “radical Islamic terrorism” not helpful.

Prior to the meeting, retired U.S. Army Col. Peter Mansoor told Fox News that McMaster, with whom he served in Iraq during the 2007 surge of American troops, “absolutely does not view Islam as the enemy… and will present a degree of pushback against the theories being propounded in the White House that this is a clash of civilizations and needs to be treated as such.”

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s National Security Adviser. (Image source: Center for Strategic and International Studies)

Let us put McMaster’s premise — which is antithetical not only to that of his predecessor, Michael Flynn, but to Trump himself and many of his senior advisers — to the test.

Less than three years ago, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh — a grandchild of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam called Wahhabism — said, in an August 19, 2014 statement, that Islamic State (ISIS), and al-Qaeda, are Islam’s “enemy number one.”

This would be a good sign, if not for the fact that four days earlier, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani, a former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and a Salafi (a strict sect of Sunni Islam advocating a return to the early Islam of the Quran), tweeted: “ISIS is a true product of Salafism and we must deal with it with full transparency.”

Later that month, al-Kalbani published two pieces in the Saudi government-aligned daily Al Riyadh — on August 24 and 31 — criticizing elements “in the Salafi stream for appropriating the truth and Islam and for permitting the killing of their opponents, and… clerics and society that dared not come out against them.”

This was a bold assertion on the part of al-Kalbani: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on Wahhabism, a form of Salafism embraced by the monarchy.

In January 2016, al-Kalbani gave an interview to the Saudi-owned, Dubai-based network, MBC, in which he acknowledged with regret, “We follow the same thought [as ISIS], but apply it in a refined way.” He added that ISIS “draws its ideas from what is written in our own books, from our own principles.” (Author’s emphasis)

McMaster should have been listening.

In the BBC World Service podcast “The Inquiry” (December 2015) — on a program called “Is Saudi Arabia to blame for IS?” — Professor Bernard Haykel, director of the Institute for Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia at Princeton University, said: “The Islamic State’s religious genealogy comes from ‘Jihadi Salafism,’ a theological current that is very old in Islam that is quite literalist.” Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s well-known short books, he added, “are used by ISIS today.”

Indeed, until ISIS began producing its own textbooks in 2014, the terrorist organization relied on official Saudi ones.

In addition, many fatwas (Islamic legal decrees) issued by senior Saudi clerics are markedly similar to those issued by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. As recently as February 2017, in fact — in a lesson aired on Saudi regime-aligned Ahwaz TV — Sheikh Ayman Al-Anqari cited various hadiths (a collection of the Prophet Mohamed’s sayings) supporting his fatwa that “coexistence in the sense of freedom of religion… is null and void.” He also advocated offensive jihad and death as a punishment for apostates.

It should be noted that Al-Anqari is a professor in the Aqidah (Islamic Faith) and Current Doctrines department in the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies at Al-Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.

In other words, as al-Kalbani has confirmed — and contrary to what McMaster has been telling his staff and his commander-in-chief, President Trump — Muslim terrorists are Islamic, and the term “radical Islamic terrorism” is apt, accurate and extremely “helpful.”

A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.

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Special Ops Command to Pentagon: Stop Ignoring Jihad

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But the Pentagon’s orders are to ignore the jihad come from on high.

CounterJihad, Sept. 26, 2016:

Staff officers of United States Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are stonewalling demands by the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to add Salafi Jihad to the description of our enemies.  The Washington Times reports:

U.S. Special Operations Command has privately pressed the staff of the nation’s highest-ranking military officer to include in his upcoming National Military Strategy a discussion of the Sunni Muslim ideology underpinning the brutality of the Islamic State group and al Qaeda…  The 2015 public version does not mention Islamic ideology. It lists terrorists under the ambiguous category of “violent extremist organizations” and singles out al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

…Special Operations Command wants the National Military Strategy to specifically name Salafi jihadism as the doctrine that inspires violent Muslim extremists. Salafi jihadism is a branch within Sunni Islam. It is embraced by the Islamic State and used to justify its mass killings of nonbelievers, including Shiite Muslims, Sunnis and Kurds, as well as Christians.  People knowledgeable about the discussion toldThe Washington Times that SoCom has not been able to persuade Gen. Dunford’s staff to include Salafi jihadism in any strategy draft.

The National Military Strategy (NMS) will be a classified document that will spell out the nation’s strategic goals and means of attaining those goals.  It occupies a middle position in a cycle of obtaining the right means to the nation’s strategic ends.  The NMS follows the production of the National Security Strategy (NSS), which is issued by the President of the United States.  The NSS is more general, as the President occupies the higher position of Commander in Chief, and lays out what the President takes to be the important goals of the nation globally.  The NMS is then prepared by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and lays out in much greater specificity military means to supporting the ends identified by the President in the NSS.  The NMS then serves both as guidance for combatant commanders, such as the commander of USSOCOM, and also for helping Congress to identify military budget priorities.

It is a crucial document, in other words, but one over which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has only limited control.  The NSS sets limits on what the NMS can say.  Combatant commands like USSOCOM are deeply interested in the content of the document, as the NMS will set similar limits on what they are allowed to direct subordinate units to say and do.  SOCOM is encountering resistance at the Pentagon because they are asking the NMS to push out into territory that the author of the NSS does not want to enter.  The Pentagon’s orders come from the highest levels on this matter, indeed from the President of the United States himself.

For that reason it is no surprise that SOCOM’s pushback has not yet created any effect on the forthcoming strategy.  Nevertheless, they are manifestly correct about the importance of recognizing that the Islamic State (ISIS) is in fact Islamic.  As the classic text on war by Sun Tzu counsels, a nation can only be confident at war if its leaders understand not only themselves but also their enemy.  Refusing to understand your enemy is a crippling defect.

However, the identification of the problem as Salafi theology is only a partial fix.  Certainly within the context of the question of ISIS and al Qaeda, whom SOCOM have been instructed to treat as enemies, Salafi and Wahhabi Islam are the correct subsets of Islam to consider.  Yet there is another “brand” of Islamic theology that is just as radical, which is the velayat-e faqih model of Shia Islam pushed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.  SOCOM has not been ordered to treat Iran as an enemy.  Rather, the US military has been ordered to avoid conflict with Iran, and to operate alongside Iranian-backed irregulars in Iraq as if they were allies instead.  The result has been that our fighting forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria, as well as our naval forces in the Persian Gulf, have been exposed to huge risks that they are forbidden to combat.

Meanwhile Iran continues to develop long-range nuclear-capable missiles for warheads it currently swears it will never produce.  Iran installs advanced new anti-aircraft missiles to help fortify its Fordow nuclear site, which President Obama’s deal supposedly put beyond use.  Why fortify it against air attack, then?  Why develop missiles if you never intend to have a payload that would make them a useful option?

It is clear that our military is being forbidden from even thinking clearly, or speaking clearly, about the threats we face and where they originate.  The next President will need to reverse course, and quickly, if we are to avoid a disaster that costs American lives, America’s position in the world, and America’s national strategic goals.

French Scholar of Islam Gilles Kepel: Prepare for War

sislam-will-dominate1Expect the jihad to worsen across Europe, to the point that many states fall into civil war over what to do about the terror.

CounterJihad, Sept. 13, 2016:

How much worse will Islamist terrorism in Europe get?  According to French scholar Gilles Kepel of the Sciences Po institute, it is likely to get so much worse that European states fall into civil war over government inability to stop it.

Professor Gilles Kepel, from the Sciences Po in Paris, France, said a growing ‘Jihad Generation’ is likely to continue to carry out terror acts in European cities.  The aim of their terror activity is to both incite hatred towards Muslims and, in doing so, cause further radicalisation among young people, the professor of political science said.

He told the German newspaper Die Welt that this in turn could lead to the point where Europe enters into civil war.

 

Specifically, Kepel is concerned that this continual wave of terror attacks cannot be effectively stopped by traditional policing methods.  The French government seems to agree, as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said this week that there would definitely be more successful attacks even though his government is stopping attacks “every day.”

Partially this is because police do not have anything like the resources they would need.  The numbers of Muslims on terrorism watch lists in France alone tops 15,000, having tripled in recent months.  It takes many police officers to establish a full-time watch on one particular suspect.  The French have far less capacity to watch these suspects than does the American FBI, and even they have only “a few dozen” surveillance teams — far too few to watch the thousand-plus suspected Islamic terrorists here.  There is simply no way for police work alone to deal with so large a problem.

Thus, terrorist acts on the scale of the recent Paris attacks are likely to continue, and the European populations will eventually find it intolerable.  They will then move to expel Islam from Europe by endorsing right wing parties, Kepel says, and that will lead to the civil wars he fears.

Nor will that be the end of the violence.  The Islamist radicals will not be satisfied with destabilizing Europe, in Kepel’s view.  They will want to build an Islamic society from the wreckage:

The long-term goal of the Jihad Generation is to destroy Europe through civil war and then build an Islamic society from the ashes, Prof. Kepel said. The strategy is similar to the expansion of Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, and Libya where the terrorist organisation was able to use the chaos of civil war to slowly build its forces, grow in power, and rapidly seize territory.

There are things that can be done to lessen the danger, according to Professor Kepel.  One of the main ones is that Islamic leaders should reject Salafism, a form of Islam that requires a kind of disconnection from the secular states characteristic of contemporary Europe.  Kepel proposes that Islamic scholars have a “duty” to reject Salafism, and that most are failing this duty by remaining silent in the face of a rising tide of this ideological movement.

The young are particular persuaded by Salafi ideas, according to Breitbart, as also are thought to be the recent immigrant wave from the crises in the Middle East.  They point out that Germany has begun to raid Salafi preachers, targeting some 45,000 in recent months.  But of course that returns our attention to the scale of the problem.  Raiding 45,000 homes is possible.  Monitoring 45,000 preachers full time is probably quite beyond the resources of any European state, and possibly beyond even the United States.

Why It’s So Hard To Prosecute Islamists And Keep A Free Society

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Anjem Choudary’s case exemplifies the difficulties we in the West face in dealing with homegrown Islamic radicalism.

The Federalist, by M. G. Oprea, Aug. 23, 2016:

The British Muslim “hate preacher” Anjem Choudary has finally been convicted after 20 years of preaching fundamentalist Islam aimed at radicalizing young Muslims and encouraging them to engage in terrorist activities. Last week, he, along with Mohammed Rahman, was found guilty of inviting support for ISIS in speeches and lessons posted online. Choudary’s case, and his long history of Salafist extremism, exemplifies the difficulties that we in the West face in dealing with homegrown Islamic radicalism.

Choudary, a British citizen born to Pakistani parents, has spent two decades working toward global Islamic domination. These are his words. He wants Islamic law to spread throughout the world, and told the Washington Post in 2014 “We believe there will be complete domination of the world by Islam.” He has also said that “Britain belongs to Allah.”

Choudary founded multiple Islamist and Wahhabist organizations in England, all of which were eventually banned. He has connections with numerous other Salafist and Islamist groups and is a known leader of “dark networks” that stretch across Europe and seek to radicalize young Muslims. He has praised terrorists, including the 9/11 attackers, and proclaimed they are in paradise. He has been friendly with a top ISIS figure and executioner, who at the time was part of the terrorist group Sharia4Belgium, and is connected to more than 100 British terrorists, and many terror plots.

Terrorism’s Victims Include Freedom of Speech

But somehow Choudary has managed to skirt the law all these years. A lawyer until 2002, he knew how to step up to the line of criminality without crossing it. Although his influence on European Muslims is well-known and -documented, he managed to skate by on technicalities of the law, because he hadn’t engaged in terrorist activities himself, nor was it proven he had directly sent people to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS.

What finally allowed authorities to arrest him last year and convict him this month was an oath he signed to ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in conjunction with speeches posted online that called on Muslims to join ISIS. As a prohibited organization, membership in ISIS is considered a criminal offence. British authorities convicted him of “inviting support for a proscribed organization,” under Terrorism Act 2000.

Choudary’s case raises questions of how far freedom of speech extends, and what ought to be done with terrorists once convicted. Although freedom of speech in Britain is a long-established common law right, in recent years it has suffered many setbacks. A Reason magazine article from last year highlighted the policing and punishment of Twitter users and journalists, as well as advertisers (a notable case was an ad banned in London for supposedly body-shaming women by depicting a fit woman in a bikini).

But what about here in the United States? People often ask what we should be doing at home to protect our country from Islamist terrorism. While presidential candidate Donald Trump would point solely to immigration, this misses the glaring fact that many Islamist terrorists were born in America or came as young children. This list includes Omar Mateen (Orlando), Faisal Mohammed (University of California-Merced), the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston Marathon), Syed Farook (San Bernardino), Nadir Soofi (Garland, Texas), and Nidal Hassan (Fort Hood).

Terrorists like these are drawn to Salafist Islam either in their communities and mosques or on the Internet. It isn’t always clear what the authorities can legally do beyond monitoring radical clerics and mosques and looking for connections between radicalized individuals and groups. How far can they go in policing what Islamists are preaching?

It Would Be Difficult to Prosecute Choudary in America

Freedom of speech is perhaps the most crucial right in a free society. There’s a reason it was the first right enshrined in the Bill of Rights: it’s meant to protect citizens from government attempts to silence dissent and regulate ideas and messages. In America, a country with arguably the most robust free speech protections, there are only a few exceptions to this First Amendment right. These include speech others own, child pornography, commercial speech, obscenity, and fighting words. None of these, however, are applicable to combatting Islamists, who are essentially supporting terrorism without providing terrorists with direct material support like guns, bombs, or money.

The one type of unprotected speech that would be applicable in a case like Choudary’s is incitement to violence. Speech that advocates force is unprotected, but only if its intention is to produce “imminent lawless action” and is likely to succeed. This could potentially apply to the sermons of Salafist imams, which, if encouraging people to fight with ISIS, are promoting lawless action. However, proving that they’re likely to lead to imminent action is more difficult.

Expressing even the most reprehensible views is protected by the First Amendment, including having a Ku Klux Klan parade or arguing for the overthrow of the government. So an Islamist imam could preach beliefs whose natural conclusion might be violence, but so long as he isn’t calling on a crowd to go out right away and commit terrorism, his speech is protected. This is why we may not have been able to prosecute a man like Choudary here in America.

Another way unprotected free speech comes into play is “true threats.” This recently made news when a Missouri woman was arrested for retweeting Twitter posts calling for the murder of U.S. law enforcement officials. The tweet contained names, addresses and phone numbers. Federal prosecutors argue that her retweets are tantamount to active support of ISIS, and charged the woman with conspiracy and transmitting a threat across state lines. Her defense, based on First Amendment grounds, argues the charges are unconstitutionally vague, once again illustrating the tension between free speech and national security.

Prisons Aren’t a Great Place for Islamists, Either

Once a conviction is made, as with Choudary, the problems don’t end there. Choudary faces up to ten years in prison. But what will he do once behind bars? Prison systems have become notorious in Europe and America for breeding radical Muslims, so a man like Choudary poses a threat inside as well as outside of prison.

Islamists in prison are treated like “aristocracy,” according to an audit of French prisons. When Salah Abdeslam, one of the Paris attackers, was arrested and sent to the Fleury-Mérogis prison he was “welcomed as the messiah,” according to one guard there. That same audit also found jihadi inmates can easily communicate with the outside world, including Syria.

So officials face a difficult decision between keeping Islamists like Choudary in the general population, where they can influence and indoctrinate other men, or concentrating Choudary and others like him in cell blocks so they don’t have access to non-radicalized inmates. This, of course, has its own dangers, namely that these men may plan future attacks and terrorist operations together. The third option, total isolation, is widely unpopular in places like Britain and France, where it is, perhaps correctly, seen as inhumane and cruel.

Choudary’s stay in prison will last a maximum of ten years. Then what? Does he get out in a few years after having been active in prison, and go on as he did before? Perhaps this time he’ll be more careful so as not to get caught. Some countries are working on de-radicalization programs, but their success has been dubious.

Choudary’s case typifies the difficulties the Western world faces in combatting radicalization. As a country that is fundamentally based on concepts of liberty and freedom of speech and of association, our principles and constitutionally protected rights sometimes run up against threats to national security. This is the great challenge we will face in the fight against Islamist ideology and homegrown radicalization in the years ahead. For a sense of the challenges to come, we need only look to Europe, where that fight is well underway.

M. G. Oprea is a writer based in Austin, Texas. She holds a PhD in French linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Also see:

Confirmed: Islam, Not ‘Grievances,’ Fuels Muslim Hate for the West

isis (3)ISIS settles the debate—but will Western leaders still disseminate lies?

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, Aug. 19, 2016:

An old (and tiresome) debate appears to have been settled by those best positioned to settle it.  According to Andrew Gripp, a former political science professor:

Since 9/11, one of the defining fault lines in American and Western politics has concerned whether jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS are motivated by their religion or by politics – or more specifically, by grievances against Western foreign policy. Some insist that Islamic doctrine is the basis of their violence, while others insist that such groups are not truly Islamic, but are instead using the guise of religion to lash out against Western influence and intervention.

After indicating how “jihadist groups’ political behavior is consistently traceable to their beliefs about what the Quran, hadith, and respected commentaries say they have a divine injunction to do,” Gripp writes:

For years, however, making this case has been a challenge. This is in part because al-Qaeda was intentionally speaking to both sides in this debate. As the scholar Raymond Ibrahim demonstrates in The Al Qaeda Reader, the terrorist group would regularly frame its grievances in political terms when broadcasting its message to the West (so as to insinuate that once the West withdrew, peace would come). Yet when speaking to the Muslim world, the group would make highly sophisticated religious arguments, explaining why its actions, however reprehensible on their face, were in fact justified by a close reading of the holy texts.

This was indeed the main reason I sought to translate and publish al-Qaeda’s internal communiques to fellow Muslims side-by-side with al-Qaeda’s communiques to the West: to show the stark differences in tone and purpose.  As I wrote in the book’s preface ten years ago:

This volume of translations [The Al Qaeda Reader], taken as a whole, proves once and for all that, despite the propaganda of al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, radical Islam’s war with the West is not finite and limited to political grievances—real or imagined—but is existential, transcending time and space and deeply rooted in faith.

Now, however, the world need not rely on my translations and can get it straight from the horse’s mouth:  In a recent article titled “Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You,” the Islamic State gives six reasons.   Reason number one says it all:

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son [Christ], you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4 [i.e., Koran 60:4]). Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option [“People of the Book”] – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims [per Koran 9:29].

This is as plain as it gets, not to mention wholly grounded in Islam’s traditional worldview.  As has been repeatedly pointed out, if Muslims are persecuting their fellow country men and women—people who share their nationality, ethnicity, culture, and language—on the simple basis that they are Christians, why should there be any surprise, or excuses of “grievances,” when Muslims terrorize the “infidels” of the West?

Reasons two and three of why ISIS hates and fights the West are essentially the same as reason one: Western secularists and atheists are hated and attacked for disbelieving in and living against Allah.  Although reason four cites “crimes against Islam,” this is a reference to the “crime” of refusing to submit to Islam’s authority and sensibilities, also known as “Islam’s How Dare You?!” phenomenon.

It is only in reasons five and six that ISIS finally mentions “grievances” against Western foreign policies—only to quickly explain:

What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. […]  The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you [emphasis added].

It is this unrelenting hatred that Westerners cannot comprehend; a hate that compels Muslim husbands to hate their non-Muslim wives, and compels America’s great “friends and allies” Saudi Arabia and Qatar to publish government sanctioned decrees proclaiming their hate for America.

And it was always this hate that fueled al-Qaeda’s jihad—not grievances.  All of the Koran verses that call for hate against non-Muslims have been repeatedly cited by al-Qaeda in its Arabic writings to Muslims.  (Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s current leader, wrote a 60 page treatise devoted to delineating how Islam commands Muslims to hate non-Muslims, see “Loyalty and Enmity,” The Al Qaeda Readerp. 63-115.)

Osama bin Laden once wrote

As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High’s Word: “We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us—till you believe in Allah alone” [Qur’an 60:4 referenced above in ISIS’s recent publication]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility—that is, battle—ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [i.e., a dhimmi], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable [in which case, bin Laden later clarifies, they should dissemble (taqiyya) before the infidels by, say, insisting the conflict is about “foreign policy,” nothing more]. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy!… Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred—directed from the Muslim to the infidel—is the foundation of our religion.  (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 43).

Yet, in every communique he issued to the West, bin Laden stressed that al-Qaeda’s war was entirely based on Western foreign policies detrimental to Islam: eliminate these and terrorism would cease.  This rhetoric was accepted at face value by many so-called “experts” (such as ex-CIA agent Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris) and became the default answer to the tired question, “why do they hate us?”  As late as 2014 U.S. President Obama invoked the “grievance” meme concerning ISIS.

Of course, it was one thing for Western leaders to accept and disseminate al-Qaeda’s lies concerning “grievances,” and another thing for them to continue doing so now, in light of ISIS’ recent and open confessions concerning the true nature of the jihad.  Any Western leader, analyst, or “expert” who at this late hour continues peddling the “grievance” narrative falls within the ever growing ranks of fools and liars.

Also see:

Schizophrenic – President Obama’s Two Faces on Radical Islam

ob_1By Brian Fairchild, August 3, 2016

President Obama is renowned for his insistence that there is nothing Islamic about the Islamic State, and for his refusal to utter any Islamic religious references when discussing international terrorism. He drove this point home recently when he angrily refused to describe the war against jihadis as a war against “radical Islamic terrorism”. Few realize, however, that the president has definitively and repeatedly contradicted his own statements, and has actually profiled the terrorist enemy with the same words he has criticized others for using – that the enemy attacking the United States is a “violent, radical…interpretation of Islam” and that there is a need for Islam as a whole to challenge that interpretation.

The president has often defended his policy of denying a connection between terrorism and Islam by stating that to do so would bestow legitimacy on the terrorists, insult Islam, and alienate Muslims, but he himself has precisely made this connection in speeches that appear to have been missed by the media and counter terrorism officials and analysts.

In two public statements: one before his Countering Violent Extremism conference, and one before a Muslim audience at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, as well as in statements he made to a journalist from The Atlantic magazine, the president directly contradicted his own statements and actually profiled the enemy as followers of a violent radical interpretation of Islam, an interpretation so ingrained in Islam that there is a need for the whole of Islam to challenge it. Indeed, his description was so accurate, that had it become the foundation of official US counter terrorism policy, the nation’s national security agencies would have been adequately armed to confront the threat.

Note: This paper will use the intelligence analysis format of establishing the relevant facts, in this case, by using only direct quotes from the president that will lead to general findings based on those facts that will lead to a logical conclusion and forecast of future action.

All of the entries in the “FACTS” section are direct quotes from the president taken from two official White House documents: Statement from the President in his closing from the summit on Countering Violent Extremism, February 18, 2015, and Statements by the President at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, February 3, 2016, as well as from his April 2016 one-on-one interviews with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic magazine. As a reference aide, each quote will be highlighted and linked to the proper document by the initials CVE, to denote the Countering Violent Extremism document, ISB, to denote the Islamic Society of Baltimore document, or The Atlantic, to denote the president’s interview with Jeffery Goldberg.

FACTS:

The enemy:

• The Atlantic: “It is very clear what I mean, which is that there is a violent, radical, fanatical, nihilistic interpretation of Islam by a faction—a tiny faction—within the Muslim community that is our enemy, and that has to be defeated. There is also the need for Islam as a whole to challenge that interpretation of Islam, to isolate it, and to undergo a vigorous discussion within their community about how Islam works as part of a peaceful, modern society…”

• ISB: “…it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam. This is the truth…We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The enemy’s justification for its actions and its worldwide acceptance:

• CVE: “Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw, selectively, from the Islamic texts. They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations.”

How the enemy radicalizes and recruits young Muslims:

• CVE: “Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.” And they propagate the notion that America — and the West, generally — is at war with Islam. That’s how they recruit. That’s how they try to radicalize young people.”

The enemy’s success in the United States:

• ISB: “But, right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror. They combine it with false claims that America and the West are at war with Islam. And this warped thinking that has found adherents around the world — including, as we saw, tragically, in Boston and Chattanooga and San Bernardino — is real. It’s there.”

The enemy’s focus for radicalization and recruitment:

• CVE: “We have to be honest with ourselves. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL deliberately target their propaganda in the hopes of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims, especially those who may be disillusioned or wrestling with their identity. That’s the truth.”

The Muslim Community’s responsibility:

• CVE: “…we’ve got to discredit these ideologies. We have to tackle them head on. And we can’t shy away from these discussions. And too often, folks are, understandably, sensitive about addressing some of these root issues, but we have to talk about them, honestly and clearly.”

• ISB: “Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities…Muslim political leaders have to push back on the lie that the West oppresses Muslims, and against conspiracy theories that says America is the cause of every ill in the Middle East.”

• CVE: “Faith leaders may notice that someone is beginning to espouse violent interpretations of religion, and that’s a moment for possible intervention
Anti-American elements with the Muslim Community:

• CVE: But if we are going to effectively isolate terrorists, if we’re going to address the challenge of their efforts to recruit our young people, if we’re going to lift up the voices of tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim community, then we’ve got to acknowledge that their job is made harder by a broader narrative that does exist in many Muslim communities around the world that suggests the West is at odds with Islam in some fashion. The reality…is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances…does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it’s been polluted by Western values…So those beliefs exist. In some communities around the world they are widespread. And so it makes individuals — especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated — more ripe for radicalization.

FINDINGS:

Based on the facts above, it is clear that that:

• Despite his years-long insistence that Islamist terrorism is not Islamic, the president’s statements demonstrate, quite to the contrary, that he full-well understands that the ideology of the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other jihad groups is inextricably connected to Islam. This is nowhere more apparent than when he stated that this violent and radical interpretation requires intervention by the entire religion. Such a requirement reveals just how extensively it permeates the religion, which quite different from the notion the president espouses that describes the Islamic State and other jihad groups as illegitimate Islamic impostors who “portray” themselves as religious leaders. Similarly, when the president told the audience at the Islamic Society of Baltimore that “a small fraction of Muslims propagate” this interpretation, he was admitting to a Muslim audience that the followers of these movements are not outsiders or impostors, but are legitimate followers of Islam – Muslims.

• The president did not name the particular “interpretation of Islam” he described, but it is likely he was referring to Salafi-jihadism, which is how all Sunni jihad groups self-identify. Salafism is a legitimate ultraconservative strain of Sunni Islam. It is not a creation of any Islamist terrorist organization. Quite the opposite is true. Al Qaeda and all Sunni Islamist terrorist organizations emerged from a Salafi religious foundation. Salafis insist that the only sources of Islamic authority are a literal acceptance of Allah’s commands in the Qur’an, and a strict literal acceptance and emulation of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Compared to the world population of 1.6 billion Muslims, Salafism is comprised a small percentage of the total number of Muslims, but this minority is estimated to be in the millions.

• The president’s statements definitively contradict the Countering Violent Extremism initiative because he profiles the enemy as belonging to one particular group – Muslims – and not as separate individuals who for unforeseeable reasons become radicalized and commit random acts of violence. Moreover, he places the responsibility for discrediting and countering this radical Islamist ideology squarely on the shoulders of Muslim communities.

• The president’s admission that there is an anti-American “strain of thought” widespread in many Muslim communities around the world that proselytizes that Islam is incompatible with modernism and tolerance and “makes individuals — especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated — more ripe for radicalization”, contradicts his general message that young Muslims are primarily radicalized over the Internet, and brings to the fore the role that radical imams, mosques, organizations, and radical speakers play in supporting radical Islamist networks. Again, this places the Muslim community front and center as a locus for Islamist behavior. Although he did not name this anti-American “strain of thought”, it is likely he was referring to the ideology of the worldwide Islamist movement propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

CONCLUSION/FORECAST:

The president’s two-faced stance regarding radical Islam is hypocritical at best, and schizophrenic at worst and is best understood by viewing two of the president’s quotes back-to-back.

In the first statement given on June 14, 2016, the president is reacting angrily to Donald Trump’s call for him to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism”. In response, he rhetorically asked the following questions in order to deride Trump’s demand:

• “What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try and kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?

The second statement appeared in The Atlantic interview in April 2016, two months prior to his rhetorical derision of Trump, so while the president rhetorically lambasted Trump for his naïve and outlandish demands, he knew Trump was correct. In fact, in his April statement he had described the enemy by using the exact adjective Trump had demanded – “radical”, and he had already answered his own question as to whether there was a strategy that would benefit by using the term “radical Islamic terrorism”:

• “…there is a violent, radical, fanatical, nihilistic interpretation of Islam by a faction—a tiny faction—within the Muslim community that is our enemy, and that has to be defeated. There is also the need for Islam as a whole to challenge that interpretation of Islam, to isolate it, and to undergo a vigorous discussion within their community about how Islam works as part of a peaceful, modern society…”

For reasons yet unclear and beyond the scope of this analysis, the president ignored all the facts that he marshaled above and created the generic Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative to deal with terrorism instead. The program assiduously avoids all of the issues so far discussed, and is the antithesis and a negation of all of the president’s personal beliefs and his understanding of the jihadi threat as elucidated above. Here, the president, once again demonstrating schizophrenic tendencies, explains why all he has said above should be discounted:

• “We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist, so there’s no way to predict who will become radicalized. Around the world, and here in the United States, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths — which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths. It’s not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time.”

This self-defeating initiative, based on no sound research or intelligence, and with no foundation in reality, has undermined the national security and safety of the country.
The most likely forecast based on all of the above is that with roughly four months to go until the end of his administration, is that the president will not reverse himself and inaugurate a new counter terrorism policy targeted against the very ideology and threats he says must be discredited and defeated.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service. He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan. Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

Saudi Arabia’s religious police stripped of authority to arrest Sharia violators

Saudi women journalists raise their hands to ask questions at a press conference held by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last month. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Saudi women journalists raise their hands to ask questions at a press conference held by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last month. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The Saudi  government issued new regulations for the religious police operating in the state Tuesday, taking away the organization’s authority to arrest and persecute citizens for not adhering to Sharia law in their daily lives.

The unprecedented Saudi move came as a result of growing local criticism of the police and the way it performs its role as the defender of Sharia law in the state.

According to a statement explaining the new regulations, the religious police is “an independent body, which has organizational relations with the prime minister.”

The government emphasized that the religious police should notify the police or the Anti-Drug Authority of drug use crimes, adding that “neither the members nor the heads of the religious police are allowed to arrest and persecute citizens for such crimes, or even to ask suspected people for their IDs. Only the police and the Anti-Drug Authority are allowed to take these measures.”

In light of previous violent incidents that involved religious police members who attacked citizens, the governmental statement also included a prohibition on people who were charged with criminal offenses from joining the religious police.

The Saudi move aroused contradictory responses on social media networks. While opponents of extremist Islam in the country hailed the government’s decision, stating that “it’s better late than never,” others initiated a social media campaign under the hashtag, “The people against abolishing the role of the religious police.”

The Saudi government’s controversial decision comes amid an ongoing conflict between liberal Saudis and Salafi Saudis over the religious character of the Kingdom. Salafis view the recent move as evidence that the government is tilting toward the latter camp.