By Joel Himelfarb
26 Mar 2015
When the issue of radical Islam and terror is raised, the Obama administration denies that there is any real connection between the two. Much of the rest of the world, however, has left that approach behind, the Washington Times reported Thursday.
Within the administration, CIA Director John Brennan has long been among the most forceful of the deniers. At a Council on Foreign Relations forum earlier this month, Brennan said he was "amused" by the focus on what label President Obama and his aides used to refer to the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamist terror groups.
Using terminology such as "Muslim terrorism" and "Islamic extremism," Brennan said, disregards the reality that terrorism "is totally inconsistent with what the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world" actually believe.
Mentioning Islam in connection with terrorism "plays into the enemy's hands" and "really does give them [terrorists] the type of Islamic legitimacy that they are so desperately seeking, but which they don't deserve at all," he added.
The terrorists are "criminals," Brennan said. "Many of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers, who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct. And I do think it does injustice to the tenets of religion when we attach a religious moniker to them."
This approach, however, has left the United States increasingly isolated from many of its closest allies that have no such reluctance about discussing the subject.
British Home Secretary Theresa May on Monday announced a get-tough policy aimed at combating "Islamist extremists."
May declared that the new measures include the power to close sites "that are owned or occupied by extremists or are used to host extremist meetings or speakers." Her comments were widely interpreted as targeting mosques and Islamic centers that foment intolerance and violence.
May also announced new scrutiny of religious figures seeking to enter Britain and a requirement that they speak English when speaking to followers. The new policy would bar radicals from working unsupervised with children out of concern that jihadists would try to brainwash them.
"Islamist extremists believe in a clash of civilizations," Ms. May said. "They promote a fundamental incompatibility between Islamic and Western values, an inevitable divide between 'them and us.' They demand a caliphate, or a new Islamic state, governed by a harsh interpretation of Sharia law. They utterly reject British and Western values, including democracy" and "believe that it's impossible to be a good Muslim and a good British citizen."
The policies would take effect if a new Conservative Party-dominated government is elected in May.
In France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told The Wall Street Journal last month that France has been hit by "jihadist terrorism and radical Islamism," emphasizing that it is important to "call things like they are."
A growing number of Muslim allies of the United States have also rejected the Obama/Brennan approach of denying radical Islam's role in fomenting violence.
In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced this week that he is expanding a campaign to urge the nation's Muslim leaders to purge an extremist ideology from its ranks. In January, Sisi called publicly for a "religious revolution" in Egypt to purge al-Qaida and ISIS from Egyptian society.
In a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani urged public officials and leaders in Muslim-majority countries to condemn jihadist groups such as ISIS.
"Silence is not acceptable," he declared.
In Tunisia, the Religious Affairs Ministry disclosed earlier this month that 149 mosques have been seized by militant Salafist Muslims. In 2011, the Salafists seized scores of mosques from more moderate imams.
Officials said that since the ouster of Tunisia's secular strongman President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, more than 1,000 mosques in that country had been taken over by radicals.