Since the Bush Administration enacted a policy to avoid words like "jihadist" and remove references to Islam or Muslims from Islamist terrorist acts, we've challenged the wisdom behind it.
So it's surprising and heartening to see Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano clearly state that "Violent Islamic terrorism" exists and was part of the Fort Hood terrorist attack. A transcript isn't yet available, but Fox News reporter Mike Levine noted her references during questioning from U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman. Napolitano denied there was any deliberate effort to avoid such references in the Obama administration:
"The [phrase] that you refer to, 'violent Islamic terrorism,' is something that we fight and deal with every day at the Department of Homeland Security. There is no doubt about that. It was the motivation [for the failed Christmas Day bombing], it was part and parcel of the Ft. Hood killings and other incidents we have seen this year within the United States."
That's interesting, since Nidal Malik Hasan's shooting rampage took place more than three months ago and Napolitano is the first official to publicly label it an act of terrorism. After the failed Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airliner, the administration was quick to call it terrorism.
Lieberman also seemed to elicit some tacit agreement from Napolitano that Islamic terrorism is real, albeit "an extreme expression -- a violent expression -- of one of the world's great religions. It is not Islam as most Muslims practice it, and as most of us who are not Muslim know it. ... We're not at war with Islam, we're at war with a particular extremist violent terrorist expression, which in my opinion is a corruption, a perversion, of Islam. And we ought to be willing to say so."
Napolitano agreed, saying simply, "Indeed."
Levine notes Napolitano does refer to "terrorism" often, but "has rarely referred to 'Islamic terrorism.'" The phrase was nowhere to be seen in the recently issued, 108-page Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.
Napolitano's boss, President Barack Obama, has never uttered the phrase as president or as a candidate. And counter-terror advisor John Brennan has said the administration rejects the language of "jihad," instead recognizing the threat of "violent extremists."
It remains to be seen whether Wednesday's remarks are an anomaly or the start of a shift in administration attitude.