The Obama Administration has a new strategy for combating Islamic terrorism. The document that lays out its new strategy avoids using “Terrorism” in its title, instead substituting “Violent Extremism”. Jihad is not mentioned anywhere. Even “Muslim” is used as little as possible.
Eight pages of mostly redundant text repeat the same idea, that the only way to fight Islamic terrorism is by partnering with and empowering Muslim communities and organizations. That is the “revolutionary” new idea that merited coverage from the New York Times, NPR and CNN. And if the strategy had to be summed up in one word, it would be, “Collaborate!”
“Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” sounds almost as catchy as “Man-Caused Disasters”, and comes from the same school of thought. The University of Denial, whose motto is that the best way to fight Islamic terrorism, is not to talk about it. And “Not talking about it” is a big part of the new strategy. The document warns repeatedly that associating Islam with terrorism leads to terrorism. WWII had “Loose Lips, Sink Ships”, and we have, “Loose Stereotypes Fly Planes into Buildings.”
Released as an answer to Congressman King’s hearings into Islamic radicalization, it completely fails to address the questions raised by those hearings. Instead the strategy compares Islamic terrorism to gangs and pedophiles– treating it as a persistent social issue, rather than a violent threat. And its only answer is to keep working with Muslim groups to teach their youth not to do drugs, join gangs or blow up bombs.
Empowering Local Partners is a transparent defense of CAIR and other Muslim organizations accused of radical activities. But rather than countering the charges raised against them, it pretends those charges have never been made, and urges law enforcement to continue partnering with Muslim groups. A course that leads local and national law enforcement to unwittingly work with the political partners and fundraisers of terrorist organizations.
The White House could not have found anyone better to devise its new strategy than Quintan Wiktorowicz. After September 11, Wiktorowicz co-wrote an articlefor the Saudi funded Middle East Policy Council Journal, which made a point of distinguishing between Al-Qaeda and more mainstream organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Wiktorowicz also distinguished between violent and non-violent Salafis. The “good” Salafis have PhD’s from Saudi universities. The “bad” Salafis are a “small radical fringe” who are mostly self-taught and ignorant. Want to fight Islamic terrorism, then you have to put more Islamic scholars with Saudi PhD’s on the job.
This is exactly the argument that Wiktorowicz makes, that “very religious Muslims” are “the most resistant to radicalization” while those most likely to be radicalized lack a good grounding in Islam. Fighting Islamic terrorism with Islamism was his approach in the UK and it derives from his fondness for Salafism.
In another Middle East Policy Council Journal article, Wiktorowicz warned against “radicalizing the Salafis and creating a legion of new supporters for Bin Laden”. This is the fulcrum of appeasement. On the one hand Wiktorowicz and those like him argue that terrorists are a tiny minority of a tiny minority. On the other, if the United States fails to mend its ways, they warn that any number of Muslims can become radicalized and turn into terrorists.
Wiktorowicz’s defense of Salafism as a primarily non-violent movement and his warnings about alienating them expose him as the apologist for a radical movement whose control over mosques in America has been identified as a key factor in radicalization. Mainstream defenders of Islam try to separate Salafism from what they claim is a more moderate Islam– but Wiktorowicz even defends Salafis as peaceful.
The new strategy could have been written in Saudi Arabia. And for all intents and purposes was.
The New York Times cites the ACLU and a study by Political Research Associates as influencing the need for a sanitized presentation of Islamic terrorism to law enforcement. There is a reason however that the Times does not mention PRA by name, referring to it instead as “a liberal group”.
Political Research Associates is a radical left-wing organization that claims Christians are plotting to take over the United States. The hypocrisy of citing a study that claims law enforcement officials are exposed to conspiracy theories about an Islamic takeover of the United States– by an organization that accuses Christians of the same thing– may have been obvious even to the usually tone deaf Times, hence the evasiveness about naming PRA.
What PRA has in common with Saudi Arabia is that neither of them wants to allow a serious discussion about Islamic terrorism. Instead they want the conversation to be about how overblown and how dangerous such talk is. But if talk of Islamic terrorism is overblown, then why is it dangerous? And if it is dangerous, then why is it overblown?
“Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” replaces terrorism with euphemism. With words so generic that they mean nothing at all. And the content is equally generic. Swap out a few words and it could be about any social problem.
Even former Hizb-ut-Tahrir member Ed Husain, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, has been critical of the new strategy for not addressing Islamic ideology, and prison and campus radicalization. But that’s the essence of the new strategy. Inaction and ignorance.
The new strategy is eight pages of inaction. Eight pages of silence. Eight pages of noise. It is not a document that sets out real goals and objectives. Its only objective is to sideline serious critical work and replace it with blank buzzwords. With FBI agents and prosecutors visiting mosques, removing their shoes, pressing the flesh and then going back to doing nothing. Because they have no idea what’s out there anymore.
Intelligence is the first line of defense against any threat. To know the enemy is the first step toward defending against an attack. But how do you defend against a threat, when you can’t even spell its name?
The Orwellian blankness of the new strategy is a space of ignorance to mask the truth of terrorism. The enemy is reduced to a social problem, terrorism to violent extremism and the war on terror to programs teaching Muslims about the dangers of violent extremism on the internet. The same dead end European counter-terrorism strategies imported to the United States.
The new strategy begins with Obama carefully using the Arabic transcription spelling of Usama and al-Qa’ida, and ends on cautioning that, “Strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism.” Unless you’re Christian, of course.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.