In fighting Jihad, America's greatest challenge remains understanding and confronting the ideology that provides the basis for Jihadist terrorism. Efforts to clearly define this enemy ideology recently have been undermined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and the State Department in promoting a "terror lexicon" that recommends federal government employees avoid terms such as "jihad," "jihadist," "Islamist," "mujahideen," and "caliphate" when addressing issues involving terrorism. The argument made by the DHS, NCTC, and others is that the use of such terms will aid in the "recruitment" of Muslims to join terrorist organizations, or will alternatively provide "legitimacy" to religious aspects of terrorist efforts.
However, this tactical approach to create a "terror lexicon" to ban such terms used in federal government terrorism reports and the 9/11 Commission report undermines the strategic efforts to identify, understand, and confront the ideology that is the root challenge in a war of ideas against Jihad. And, as Bill West points out, it can also open the door to some unintended consequences for law enforcement.
Congressmen Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) has been an outspoken critic of such "terror lexicon" efforts, and was the leader of an amendment to the House of Representatives' 2009 Intelligence funding bill to prevent government funding from supporting such activities. On July 16, 2008, the House passed (by voice vote) House Resolution 5959 "Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009," which included Congressman Hoekstra's amendment (Section 507 'Jihadists').
Congressman Hoekstra's amendment states that:
"None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be used to prohibit or discourage the use of the words or phrases 'jihadist', 'jihad', 'Islamo-fascism', 'caliphate', 'Islamist', or 'Islamic terrorist' by or within the intelligence community or the Federal Government."
In the House debate on this amendment, Congressional advocates of the "terror lexicon" such as Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) reiterated the DHS fears that "we not use language that inflames." She said she was not trying to invoke political correctness or censorship, yet expressed concern that the language might alienate those already hostile toward us:
"there is no prohibition in this to quoting the statements of Osama bin Laden and others who use these hateful words. Why would we want to censor that? The prohibition is directed at ourselves, words that will inflame the very communities we're trying to convince.
I would just close with the observation that if we had thought a little longer about using the phrase ‘‘axis of evil" we might have, it seems to me, engendered more cooperation on the part of some countries that have, sadly, moved far away from us, and engendered more cooperation on the part of populations which now look at America with disapproval."
But Congressman Hoekstra rebutted such arguments with the question: "How will America understand the nature and the character of our enemy if we can't use the words that they use to describe themselves and we need to come up with a whole new language that is totally out of context with the enemy and the nature of the threat that we face today?" Congressman Hoekstra also urged the House of Representatives "not [to] give the radical jihadists a victory hereby imposing a speech code on America's intelligence community."
This amendment was passed by the margin of 249-180 (with 10 abstentions). While it remains to be seen if this text will be part of a final bill supported by the Senate and signed by President Bush, the Congressional voting record on this amendment (Roll Call 500) provides the American public with insight on their representatives' views on this subject. Among those supporting Hoekstra were Republicans Sue Myrick (NC), Frank Wolf (VA), Peter King (NY) and Democrats Brad Sherman (CA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY). Opponents to the amendment included Democrats Jane Harman (CA), Steny Hoyer (MD) and John Conyers (MI), along with Republican Ron Paul (TX).
Confusion as to the "nature and character" of the enemy is precisely the goal of groups that support Islamist doctrine. Not surprisingly, Islamist groups and their apologists quickly attacked the Hoekstra amendment approval by the House of Representatives.
On July 23, 2008, the Detroit Times' Gregg Krupa reported on the successful Hoekstra amendment. The article criticized the Michigan congressional delegation (including Congressman Hoekstra) for supporting the amendment, defending the "terror lexicon." Krupa's article also states that "Muslims have long considered the words ["jihadist" and "Islamist"] as slurs," and "those who embrace jihad bring themselves closer to God." For that perspective, Krupa turns to his go-to source, Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan. Walid argues that CAIR supports such terror lexicon efforts to "remove the false cloak of religiosity" from Jihadist terrorism.
Neither Krupa nor Walid seem to have a solution about referring to terrorist groups operating under religious names, such as Hizballah (Party of God) or any number of Islamic Jihads in the world.
Parts of the Detroit Times article have also been included in a UPI news report.
Krupa's article fails to mention that CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) terror trial, or that CAIR's executive director is a supporter of the Hamas terrorist organization. Krupa's article also fails to note that CAIR has been identified by the FBI as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee. (The Investigative Project on Terrorism has a 10-part expose on CAIR.)
Krupa regularly reports on Detroit and Dearborn-area Islamic community news and related world events of interest to such readers, and his articles often are reprinted on CAIR's web site and other Islamic web sites. His articles include a report promoting a CAIR "public outreach campaign about Islam and the prophet Muhammad," and a glowing report regarding Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini (Islamic Center of America). The Detroit Times regularly quotes CAIR's Dawud Walid, and on July 8, 2008, it published a Dawud Walid commentary titled "Obama, McCain should condemn Islamophobia."
The Detroit Free Press reports that Walid "speaks regularly at one of Detroit's largest mosques, Masjid Wali Muhammad, where he is an associate imam... was the first Nation of Islam temple in the country ever built, according to Walid," and which has a portrait of the Nation of Islam's former Supreme Minister, Elijah Muhammad. Yet while he speaks at this Nation of Islam-supporting mosque and attends speeches by Louis Farrakhan, CAIR's Walid claims to be against "extremists" in his interview with the Detroit Times' Krupa. Moreover, Walid has repeatedly defended organizations accused of terrorist finance links, and encouraged readers of his blog to continue to financially support the Al Mabarrat foundation after it had been raided for suspicion of links to terrorist funding, as well as to financially support the Life for Relief and Development (LIFE) group raided in September 2006. The Al Mabarrat foundation has been linked to the terrorist group Hizballah. LIFE officer Muthanna Al-Hanooti was arrested in March on charges of spying for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government.
Joining CAIR in supporting the DHS/NCTC terror lexicon efforts are other Islamist organizations, such as: fellow HLF trial unindicted co-conspirator Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) - whose 2007 conference speakers included individuals who have called for an Islamic caliphate in the United States and other Islamists, the Muslim American Society (MAS) - founded as the United States chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood Organization ("Jihad is our way"), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) - that has lobbied to remove Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizballah from U.S. terrorist group listings, and whose spokeswoman Edina Lekovic was managing editor for Al-Talib when it defended Osama Bin Laden.
CAIR and other such Islamist organizations have a vested interest in preventing an open and honest discussion regarding the Islamist ideology that provides the basis for Jihadist terrorism. CAIR uses as one of its slogans "ignorance is the enemy." They are close - ignorance about the enemy's ideology is the real problem in fighting a war of ideas with Islamists.
But to address this strategic war of ideas, America needs to be willing to recognize that we should not grant special treatment to those hostile to our values. In facing the challenge of Jihadist terrorism, we need to be able to name and discuss the enemy's ideology.
Click here to see the full vote on Hoekstra's amendment.