Tom Basile: With us this morning on Sunday in America, Steve Emerson, who has been following the developments and the responses since last night. As I had mentioned earlier, he has been following the jihadist threat and served as a resource to the White House and National Security Council and the FBI and others for nearly two decades. So, thank you for joining us on Sunday in America, Steve.
Steve Emerson: Yes good to be with you Bill, but not on such a good occasion. I'm afraid that these attacks are just going to continue in frequency and in lethality. And we're getting into a pattern of, quote, 'accepting it,' and just, quote, 'living it' as a reality, as opposed to doing something proactive. I mean if I'm projecting three days into the future, this thing is not going to be on the front pages any longer, it will be on A21, beneath the fold. And I'm only heartened by a couple of statements, including Prime Minister Theresa May's comments that Islamic extremism, quote, 'is the ideology that must be defeated.' Good for her for saying that, because our country's leaders, prior to this administration, would never utter those terms.
Basile: Steve, you know and I was just talking about this before we had you on, she was the home secretary for a number of years before she became prime minister, but this, what she said today is a very different, is a very different tone, and is it almost too little too late at this point?
Emerson: Well, yes, I mean first of all, a statement like that is not going to reduce terrorism. Look, the bottom line is --you know what I'm finding is—she [May] also added [to her statement] a couple of typical bromides that Islamic extremism is a perversion of the religion. One doesn't have to condemn or claim that all Muslims are terrorists or radical; in fact, the vast majority [of Muslims] are not [radical], but [for her] to claim that Islamic extremism is a perversion [of the religion shows she] is simply out of her league. She's not an Islamic scholar, and neither am I, but the fact is that... defining Islamic extremism is part of a definition of defining a religion. It's the extremists who define it for themselves. So, we can't suddenly just wish it away by saying it's a perversion. Number two, the reality is it's not going to be [reduced by] cutting off the internet; it's not going to be [reduced by] cutting off Twitter' it's not going to be [reduced by] cutting off the use of [encrypted messaging service called] Telegram' it's not going to be [reduced by] cutting off the use of self-radicalization. Its [reduction is only] going to come from the community where these bombers, attackers, killers come from. They can only excise them from their roots and delegitimize them, in the same way this country delegitimized the Ku Klux Klan.
Basile: Right. Well, look, you know this is the challenge here, is because of this culture of political correctness that we have, you know even you've got the president who is willing to say what he needs to, to try keep the country safe, alright, and then he's accused of being, he's accused of being a racist, an anti-Muslim. And, true, you know the president's language has been loose at times. But, you do need people within the Muslim community to help try to address this problem. And when the president was talking in Saudi Arabia a couple of weeks ago, I mean he made it very clear – 95 percent of the people that these Muslim extremists are killing are Muslim. And that is something that's really you know these folks are apostates, well why, if they're apostates, why are they, is the rest of Islam, does it seem to sit by and watch as this redefining of Islam takes place and perceptions are driven by these radicals?
Emerson: Well, go a step further. Why aren't we in the West encouraging a reformation of Islam in the same way there was the Protestant reformation [resulting in the] separation of church and state. You need a separation of mosque and state.
Why is it that all over this country-- I know this personally having done these investigations for 20 years--all over Europe [that] the Islamic schools, most of them, still teach a Wahhabist or a puritanical form of Islam, and that ultimately allows those graduates to believe that violence is possible [or legitimate].. Or, most likely-- and this happens throughout Britain, throughout Europe, and throughout the United States--the Islamic groups that call themselves "civil rights" groups that automatically come on the air [after a terrorist attack] , like CAIR [Council on American Islamic Relations] or MPAC [Muslim Public Affairs Council}, and say, 'We condemn this [attack],' [But] they also issue another message, and that message is – the West is out to get you, there's a war against Islam by the United States. And therefore, that [messaging] is the reason why people carry out terrorism. Well, they are only encouraging terrorism. That's the actual food, that's the Pablum that terrorists feed on. The one mantra that is the single most important factor in inducing terrorism is the belief by terrorists that there's a war against Islam. And who's perpetuating that? It's the Muslim groups themselves, they claim you know to be holier than thou in condemning terrorism, but before they do that, I can tell you CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, continues to put out statement after statement that the U.S., the FBI, the government is against you, there's a war against Islam, and that you have to examine, quote, the 'roots of terrorism.' You know frankly, that would be like saying, wait, let's examine the roots of Nazism [before attacking it].
Basile: Steve, and we are speaking with an expert, Steve Emerson, who is an expert on jihadism. What do we know, what is the latest on the investigation? I had heard that there are a number of arrests this morning. Have you spoken to anybody over in the U.K. about their investigation into who is responsible for these attacks?
Emerson: I have spoken to someone close to London Metropolitan Police, which is known as Scotland Yard. They have made more than a dozen, I think it's about 18 arrests so far, which is pretty good for the British police. And by the way, they probably have the best intelligence services on counterterrorism throughout Europe, that, throughout the world, second to the United States or Israel. Having said that, I have not learned the identity, but it's clear that if the, if any amount of these people are actually guilty, if 10 of the 18 people arrested are guilty, you have a much larger plot than anyone could have imagined, and it does not come from self-radicalization [nor does] it doesn't come from the internet. It comes from a belief system that's either nurtured by the community, or they're nurtured by the education that they get, or whatever. ,They [the terrorists] are second-generation [so] , why would they care, why would they rebel against the system that gives them free education, free welfare, you know free graduate school? It's because of an ideology that believes the West has to be destroyed.
Emerson: So here in practical terms, the identities of those arrested is going to be the key to determining how large this cell was, two, who directed it, if any. Remember the July, the 2005 tube attacks in London? Well, it turns out there were four separate suicide attacks..... that killed dozens of Londoners in the tubes or their subways. It was determined that those attacks were directed from within. I mean these were second-generation Muslims [British born] who decided they hated Britain. And I'm afraid to say, when you look at public opinion polls in Britain, 23 to 29 percent of those polls in the Muslim community support Sharia.
Emerson: That's a frightening number.
Emerson: And for those who aren't familiar with it, Sharia is basically the codification of Islamic law pertaining to the Qur'an. And in strict Sharia, anyone who insults Muhammad, anybody who doesn't follow Islam according to them, is an apostate and can be killed. And the enemies of Islam are allowed to be killed because that is [considered legitimate] fighting... against oppression. In other words, just being a non-Muslim and having sovereignty over Muslims, as in Europe, that is a cause for Muslim extremists to carry out attacks. If we're not going to win that war, it's going to happen all over. I can guarantee you we're going to see another attack every week in a different country in Europe and in the United States. We had a lull recently [of successful terrorist attacks] , but that lull was because of U.S. intelligence, not because the terrorists have not tried to attack.
Emerson: In the past three months, there probably were about three-dozen arrests related to Islamic terrorism. Most of them were related to volunteering or providing ISIS support, but about six or seven of them concerned plots here in the United States. Had any one of them succeeded, you would have seen up to dozens of people killed. And then we wouldn't be congratulating ourselves about our great intelligence.
Basile: And maybe CNN anchors wouldn't be you know cursing out the president on the air for wanting –
Emerson: Oh, you are 100 percent right. I mean last night watching CNN –
Basile: Oh yeah.
Emerson: I felt that I was watching Al-Jazeera, honestly. First, calling out the president for using the term 'Islamic extremism,' then having commentators saying... we've got to get to the roots of [these attacks, saying] , the roots are joblessness and the economy. Well, frankly, I don't see those types of attacks being waged in South America, where the standard of living is much lower than it is in the Middle East. And, number two, the reality is those who carry out, we did a study and found out that most people who carry out terrorist attacks in the West are middle class [or even] have graduate or undergraduate degrees. It's not because of joblessness, it's not because of poverty; it's because of an ideology that hates the West. And if we refuse to accept that, then we'll never beat it.
Basile: But the recruitment, I mean you do have admit Steve, the recruitment is not monolithic, alright? The methods and the reasons and the rationale for why people are radicalized and the way that these increasingly sophisticated organizations recruit for different operations in different parts of the world, is not monolithic. I mean there are different things that they do.
Emerson: You're right, the recruitment could be different, but the appeal is the same. So, remember, Mohamed Atta, the chief hijacker behind 9/11, he was a secular graduate student living in Hamburg, Germany. [He was] then was invited to join a mosque in Hamburg, where he was suddenly--this graduate student--became a believer in jihad, went over to Chechnya to practice jihad, proved his you know his points and cred, street credibility, and then was assigned to carry out the attacks in the United States.
Emerson: So, you're right, the recruitment tools are different, and they're very sophisticated in terms of determining how to appeal and the vulnerabilities of each person who is recruited, but how are you going to stop someone who is, who believes in the notion that there's a war against Islam because his mosque, his community, or the major Islamic groups, like CAIR in the United States, say – don't cooperate with the FBI, they're out to entrap you, and there's a war against you by the U.S. That is the single most important factor in recruitment, by the way, for terrorists.... Unless we delegitimize those external Islamic groups, or internal rather, who claim to be civil rights groups, until we delegitimize them, and openly legitimize Islamic reformers like one led by Zuhdi Jasser, or Asra Nomani, or Qanta Ahmed, they [the reformers] openly say – we have a problem in our own religion and we have to take it away from the extremists.
Emerson: The last administration refused to give any attention or legitimacy to the Islamic reformers.
Basile: You know what would be really interesting, and I do have to run to a break, Steve, and I appreciate you jumping on the phone at such short notice, one of the things that would be very interesting to do is to see which of these, which of these organizations actually have very strong political ties to the Democratic Party, because you know you're going to have ones that are more legitimate, and those that perhaps are funded by progressive donors who disagree fundamentally with a far more offensive strategy against terrorism and you know and were out to ensure that we promoted the Obama foreign policy for the last eight years. Any final thoughts, especially as I think that the tension in this country is starting to ratchet up as people see what's going on overseas, any final thoughts for our listeners?
Emerson Yeah, I think right before World War II started, Churchill, who was then not prime minister, but had a minority position in the cabinet, said something very prescient. He said, 'Democracy's act when there is blood in the streets.' And that's very true. And unless there was blood, and I don't want there to be blood in the streets, but the reality is we are being deceived by the stealth jihad carried out by groups like CAIR, who pretend to condemn terrorist attacks but actually encourage them. And the same thing goes on in London. So, no matter how much Theresa May or anybody else condemns these attacks, that's not going to stop it. And the calls for kumbaya, that's not going to stop it. It's going to stop when we start putting pressure on the communities, closing down the Islamic madrassas, or schools, that believe in violence, and [will stop when we] also start teaching American Western values as a condition for entering the United States as an immigrant.
Basile: Steve Emerson, national security expert and expert on the jihadist threat, thank you so much for joining us here.