On September 23, 2008, in the U.S. Congressional Rayburn House Office Building (RHOB), speakers in a panel discussion sponsored by the Counterterrorism Blog (CTB) and the New America Foundation (NAF) spun fractured fairytales about Jihad and the need for America to "engage" with proponents of Islamic supremacism. (I previously wrote a background article on this subject entitled "Jihad and the Growing Surrender of American Counterterrorism.")
The September 23 panel discussion topic was "The Jihadists' Revolt Against Al Qaeda" based on a New Republic article co-written by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank. The speakers on the panel were: Peter Bergen of the "liberal think tank" New America Foundation, Counterterrorism Blog contributing experts Paul Cruickshank and Evan Kohlmann, and the Quilliam Foundation's Maajid Nawaz. The audience at this panel discussion included foreign policy analysts, counterterrorism analysts, the Saudi Arabia press, and a representative from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Per the Bergen/Cruickshank New Republic article, the focus of the discussion by most of the panelists was that disagreements over tactics between Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist and Islamic supremacist (aka "Islamist") groups was "making Americans safer," and the idea that Americans should "engage" with "Islamist" groups to promote peace. Bergen, Cruickshank, and Kohlmann addressed details on how Al-Qaeda bombing tactics (resulting in the death of other Muslims) have alienated Al-Qaeda from other Jihadists.
One attendee in the audience asked the obvious question: "Isn't this just a PR problem for Al-Qaeda that they can solve by simply killing just Americans [i.e., non-Muslims]?" Predictably, the panelists waffled on answering this question, stating that it was really more than a "PR problem," and moved on to reiterate the tactical differences between Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, as if we didn't hear them the first time around.
Paul Cruickshank also offered the standard "regionalization" argument, stating that the "jihadist movement over the years has been very amorphous," representing different ideologies. This argument claims that because Jihadist groups in different regions of the world have different near-term tactical goals, we should ignore their overall shared ideology in Islamic supremacism. Moreover, Mr. Cruickshank failed to actually explain how such Jihadist groups have different "ideologies," but led the audience to believe it is a complex issue; the "complex issue" argument is used to avoid a direct answer on anything obvious, implying that Americans should leave such thinking to experts like himself. In fact, the root problem is that many in the counterterrorism community simply refuse to acknowledge the obvious basis of Jihadist actions in the ideology of Islamic supremacism.
Peter Bergen Calls for Engagement with Islamists (Again)
Peter Bergen, an internationally known journalist, professor, and speaker, has wide reach and influence in the war of ideas. Peter Bergen is a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C., a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security, and CNN's national security analyst. He has taught at John Hopkins University and at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Peter Bergen has also testified before numerous congressional committees.
Peter Bergen is also a leading proponent of surrender in the war of ideas. As Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank stated in their June 2008 New Republic article on Jihadists' conflicts with Al-Qaeda, "it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter." This article also claimed that Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal El Helbawy was helping to recruit "moderates"; this is the same Kamal El Helbawy who was banned from entering the United States to attend a previous panel discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood attended by Peter Bergen and organized by Paul Cruickshank. It is also the same Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal El Helbawy that Steven Emerson identified as a supporter of Hamas. This is the same Muslim Brotherhood whose motto is "Jihad is our way."
When it comes to such Islamic supremacist organizations (called political "Islamist" groups by foreign policy analysts), Peter Bergen has repeatedly called for America to "engage" with such groups. At another New American Foundation-sponsored event in Washington DC in September 2005, Peter Bergen recommended as counterterrorism "strategy" that America "engage with Islamists.... [who] are not our enemies and can even be our friends." (Reference, New America Foundation working papers, page 11).
At the September 23, 2008 Capitol Hill conference, Peter Bergen reiterated this position in surrendering in the war of ideas to Islamic supremacists, stating that a suggestion "not to engage with Islamists is ridiculous." Peter Bergen then made a moral equivalency between "Islamists" and Christian fundamentalists, stating "I am not a Christian fundamentalist, but I have some friends who are." His essential "moral equivalency" argument is that if he could have Christian fundamentalist friends, why shouldn't America engage with Islamists?
During this discussion on "Islamism," the ideology of "Islamism" was then equated with the ideology with Socialism, repeating the unsound Cold War thinking argument that an identity-based supremacist ideology is the same as a statist ideology (along with the illogical belief that tactical measures should be the same for dealing with such radically different ideologies.)
Evan Kohlmann Calls for Dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood
Evan Kohlmann is also another internationally known and respected individual in the counterterrorism community, who has provided expert testimony in terror trials. He is a senior investigator with the Nine Eleven Finding Answers (NEFA) Foundation, and is also a terrorism analyst for NBC News.
At the September 23, 2008 conference, Evan Kohlmann spoke in detail about Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Iraq that have distanced themselves from Al-Qaeda because of Al-Qaeda's tactics in killing Iraqi Muslims, arguing that this could be part of a larger trend where "jihadists can turn against Al-Qaeda in a meaningful way."
Evan Kohlmann was then asked about his previous statement on the Muslim Brotherhood that "I won't hesitate in saying that I believe we must initiate some kind of dialogue with the [Muslim] Brotherhood, even if we don't support their overall agenda." At the September 23 conference, Evan Kohlmann confirmed that he has been speaking with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Evan Kohlmann is well-aware that the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood is "Jihad is our Way." Moreover, Mr. Kohlmann is acutely aware of the evidence revealed in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial that shows the Muslim Brotherhood plans to infiltrate and undermine America, as such Muslim Brotherhood memoranda are posted on the NEFA site where he is senior investigator.
Per the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Akram memorandum on the NEFA website (HLF Exhibit GX 3-85 -- "An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group"), the Muslim Brotherhood clearly communicates the Ikhwan's ["Brotherhood"] goals to infiltrate and undermine America:
"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."
"As for the role of the Ikhwan, it is the initiative, pioneering, leadership, raising the banner and pushing people in that direction (the Jihadist process). They are then able to employ, direct, and unify Muslims' efforts and powers for this process. In order to do that, we must possess a master of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.'"
Evan Kohlmann clearly is aware of these goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Yet in a tactically-centered discipline such as counterterrorism, defining the strategic enemy is not a priority. Therefore, identifying the identity-based supremacist nature of the Islamic supremacist ideology at the root of Jihad is not a priority. Without a focus on who the enemy is, what the enemy believes, and a strategy to combat it, such counterterrorism analysts focus on tactical measures that they believe will, in the short-term, prevent violence. At the same time, they surrender in the very war of ideas that enables Jihadist terrorism in the first place.
Evan Kohlmann justifies calls for discussions with the Muslim Brotherhood, not as a compromise, not as surrender in the war of ideas, but as a necessity. According to Evan Kohlmann, America frequently has to talk with groups that it might not like, but America has no choice other than to have a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood.
But America's leadership does have a choice whether or not to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood ("Jihad is our Way"). America can choose not to legitimize such Islamic supremacists, or any other identity-based supremacist ideology, by refusing to "engage" with them or by refusing to hold a "dialogue" with them.
What U.S. government organizations are seeking a dialogue with white supremacists, black supremacists, Neo-Nazi Aryan supremacists, and such ilk, as part of "counterterrorism" tactics? Who is speaking on Capitol Hill calling for engagement with white supremacist "political" groups to prevent Ku Klux Klan terrorism? Of course, anyone who did this would justifiably become an instant public pariah. But incredibly, there is no meaningful protest or condemnation when "experts" come to Capitol Hill telling Americans that they need to surrender in the war of ideas, and engage with Islamic supremacists to prevent Jihadist terrorism.
Yes, of course, America has a choice whether or not to legitimize Islamic supremacist groups. Furthermore, our proven history of success against terrorism in America has been based on not legitimizing such groups and by confronting them, rather than by "engaging" them.
Refusing to Condemn Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq
In the Bergen/Cruickshank New Republic June 2008 article on Jihadists allegedly turning against Al-Qaeda, they use the often repeated example of Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif (aka Dr. Fadl) renouncing Al-Qaeda. They ignore that Al-Sharif defends Jihad in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel. They also ignore that Al-Sharif continues to support the Taliban, stating that "Jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing."
Nor was there condemnation of Al-Sharif's support for such Jihad among the September 23, 2008 panelists on Capitol Hill either. In a half-measure that spoke volumes, Quilliam Foundation leader Maajid Nawaz stated that Al-Sharif should not be condemned for his support for Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, but only for his continued support for "Islamism." Quilliam's Maajid Nawaz stated that the Geneva Convention gave Jihadists the right to defend themselves in "occupied lands," and should not be criticized.
Those not attending the September 23 conference would not be aware that three of the four panel speakers seeking to provide American legislators guidance on Jihad had British accents. Maajid Nawaz, a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir who now denounces that group, is a British citizen. This European perspective does not view America's actions overseas as justifiable; this perspective does not care that it was the 9/11 attacks by Jihadists in Al-Qaeda camps supported by the Taliban in Afghanistan that served as the rationale for our war in Afghanistan. As a result, we have such "counterterrorism experts" at Capitol Hill defending the rights of Jihadists according to the Geneva Convention. In addition, the panel discussion also included Evan Kohlmann responding to a DHS attendee on how to better prepare America against Islamic supremacist "radicalization" by stating "don't invade foreign countries." The general consensus among the panelists seemed to be that America's efforts against Jihad in other countries are wrong.
Maajid Nawaz's support for what is popularly called "defensive Jihad" was discouraging, but not surprising. Regrettably, the message of Maajid Nawaz's Quilliam Foundation organization lacks consistency. At the September 23 conference, Maajid Nawaz did condemn the ideology of Islamism and called for "values-based engagement" regarding Islamism, but he was unable to condemn the Jihadist actions of its adherents in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Quilliam Foundation struggles with the challenge of trying to be against Islamism, yet sufficiently attractive to a broad range of British Muslims, and ends up not accomplishing either completely. Thus its leaders end up being caught in the middle of having to justify promoting Hezbollah-supporting Egyptian Mufti Gomaa, defending Usama Hassan's "support [of] a just Caliphate based on the Prophetic model" (the same words used by Al-Qaeda's As-Sahab) as being "secular," and encouraging British Muslims to reform Sharia law to protect British Muslim women rather than simply promoting support of equality under British law. As then seen in the September 23 conference, while Maajid Nawaz condemned Islamism, he then defended the rights of Jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Geneva Convention. It is sad to see.
Moreover, such unwillingness to condemn non-Al-Qaeda Jihadist actions in Afghanistan and Iraq was shared by other members of the September 23 conference panel.
Paul Cruickshank: Support for Jihad is Merely One's "Politics"
Counterterror analyst Paul Cruickshank presented an NBC video interview with Hanif Qadir as an example of a "de-radicalized" British Muslim. Mr. Cruickshank pointed out, however, that Americans might not like "his politics," which turn out to be Hanif Qadir's condemnation of the American war efforts against Jihadists in Afghanistan.
In the video interview, Hanif Qadir admits to providing significant financial donations through a member of the Taliban who was allegedly raising money for "Afghan war victims." In December 2002 as a result of his donations, Hanif Qadir was then recruited by alleged Al-Qaeda individuals (who he previously describes as "Taliban") to go to a Pakistan Jihadist training camp. When Qadir realized that the Jihadist wannabes would be just "cannon fodder," he decided to flee back to London instead. Notably, in the interview, Hanif Qadir doesn't denounce the Afghanistan Taliban Jihad efforts. Instead, Hanif Qadir condemns America for bombing Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and reiterates how "angry" he is at "U.S. foreign policy." (In the interview, his brother, Imtiaz Qadir admits to being happy during the 9/11 attacks.)
In his interview, Hanif Qadir states that then once he was safely back in London, he decided to create a London gymnasium and community center for young British Muslims. Qadir admits that he knew that members of his community center included "radicals" who met there and promoted Jihad. One radical who used Qadir's community center was convicted British Jihadist Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the alleged ringleader of the 2006 transatlantic jet bomb plot on jets headed to America (see "Airline terror plotters planned bigger 9/11"). This is the same Abdulla Ahmed Ali who promised: "expect floods of martyr operations against you and we will take our revenge and anger, ripping amongst your people and scattering your people's body parts... We love to die in the path of Allah." After Abdulla Ahmed Ali and other British Jihadists in transatlantic airline plot were arrested, Hanif Qadir denounced their arrest as "a mistake," and defended them as "pretty much decent kids."
Yet on Capitol Hill, Paul Cruickshank portrayed Hanif Qadir and his London community center as a success story in "de-radicalizing" British Muslims.
Paul Cruickshank fails to grasp that the inability of Hanif Qadir and others to address the ideological problem of Islamic supremacism, rather than merely rejecting "Al-Qaeda" terror tactics, has done little to "de-radicalize" either him or those who attend his London community center/gym. Mr. Cruickshank sought to make a false distinction between Jihad and Al-Qaeda terrorism, when the real point of the Hanif Qadir story is that Jihadist terrorism comes from the same Islamic supremacism ideology, whether the actions are taken by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or individual Jihadists like Abdulla Ahmed Ali.
The larger question is, in view of the growing surrender in the war of ideas by leading members of the counterterrorism community, do they even care?
Politicizing Jihad and Islamic Supremacism to Further Infiltrate America
Such surrender by leading members of the counterterrorism community in the war of ideas does the spade work for those who seek further infiltration by Islamic supremacists in America's legislative and executive branches of government. By legitimizing Islamic supremacism and rationalizing Jihad groups, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups are emboldened to expand their political influence and seek to "mainstream" Islamic supremacism as a legitimate American political cause.
The same day as this CTB/NAF panel discussion was taking place at Capitol Hill, another group, the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, announced the release of a new report "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World."
Among the members of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project is Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization that is an unindicted co-conspirator in the ongoing Holy Land Foundation (HLF) terror finance trial. Ingrid Mattson has also recently spoken at the Democratic National Convention. Another member of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project is Ahmed Younis, former National Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), whose communications director has praised Osama Bin Laden. In July 2008, both ISNA and MPAC sought to prevent the Investigative Project on Terrorism's (IPT) Steven Emerson from speaking on "Foreign Aid and the Fight Against Terrorism and Proliferation."
In addition, the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project leadership panel has 32 other members, including Dennis Ross, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) consultant, who is serving as a Middle East advisor for the Barack Obama campaign. The New York Times also reports that the "McCain and Obama campaigns have been briefed on the report's recommendations, and both were receptive, said Mr. Weber and other members of the group."
The report was promoted in a September 24 National Press Club press conference and has been praised by leading foreign policy members of the House of Representatives and Senate who have been briefed on this report.
I have previously summarized some of the key aspects of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's report "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World." These points were not mentioned in the New York Times or Associated Press reports that glowingly painted the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's efforts as "Report Seeks Engagement With Muslims by Diplomacy" and as "US ex-officials want good US relations with Islam."
Major points in the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's report include:
-- Rejection of concerns about "Islamism" as an ideology (page 51)
-- Tolerance of Sharia-based governments (page 52)
-- Calls for engagement with Iran (pp 4, 48, 44)
-- Calls for America to "assess the value of engagement with political representatives of armed and activist movements" (page 59)
-- Calls for America to consider dialogue with "armed political groups and movements" if they have sufficient public support (pp. 59, 60)
-- Calls for talks with the Muslim Brotherhood (pp. 54, 56, 60, 61)
-- Promotion of the 2005 Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Mecca Declaration (page 53), which calls for "deterrent punishments" against "Islamophobia," and which promotes the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam that calls for "human rights" based on Islamic Sharia law
Other than an oblique reference to discussions with Iran, such aspects of this report in calling for America's surrender in the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism are not being discussed or reported in the news media. The report is being portrayed as merely a report seeking general "diplomatic engagement" and "major investment in economic development in Muslim countries to create jobs for alienated youth."
This U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's Report was briefed to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Congressman Howard L. Berman, who has reportedly welcomed the report, stating, "This study explores in depth one of the central global challenges of our time: developing harmonious relations between Muslim-majority countries and the West. It offers thoughtful, creative, and multi-faceted proposals for meeting that challenge. Congress should give those proposals the fullest possible consideration."
In addition, this report has been endorsed by Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Ranking Minority Member Senator Richard G. Lugar, stating, "The Project's report offers a thoughtful analysis of the current state of America's relations with the Muslim world and constructive recommendations on how we can approach this pressing concern in a bipartisan framework." Senator Lugar reportedly "circulated the report to his Senate colleagues."
The growing effort of those appeasing or supporting Islamic supremacism to influence our legislature should be alarming to Americans. This secret invasion extends beyond the growing efforts to infiltrate and influence our homeland security, our military, our law enforcement, and now the growing surrender of our counterterrorism community. In addition to seeking to influence our legislature, Islamic supremacist advocacy and appeaser organizations seek to influence the campaigns of the candidates for the next American presidency as well.
As the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Akram stated in his strategy to infiltrate America, "we must possess a master of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.'" This plan to infiltrate and influence every level of the American federal government is rapidly succeeding.
America Must Win the War of Ideas against Islamic Supremacism
American remains a nation of over 300 million individuals. America is a nation "of the people, by the people, for the people." Let us never forget that this is our country, not just the country of a handful of elected representatives and federal government officials, and not a nation controlled by the whims of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic supremacist groups.
We can win the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism, but not if we refuse to fight, to speak out, to protest, and to demand that our voices are heard. This is our war on Jihad, our war on Islamic supremacism. But no one can win a one-sided battle with their opponents doing most of the fighting.
The Islamic supremacist enemy will tell us not to fight a fight we cannot win, to accept their "changing course" for America, to focus on the goals of "progress" rather than liberty and quality. They will seek to turn us against those who will stand in the way of their "progress." They will not directly ask us to "surrender," but ask us to simply accept the inevitable "change." They will not directly ask us to "submit," but ask us to accept Islamic supremacism as legitimate when it is opposed to equality itself.
Regardless of the words they use, the terms that Islamic supremacists will ultimately call for will be nothing less than... surrender.
Whether individual Americans and individual American leaders choose to surrender or not, the fact remains that America itself is more than its people, more than its geography. America is an idea that embodies the principles of equality and liberty. America can no more be crushed by those on their knees, than it can be crushed by Jihadist bombs. America is what we believe in our hearts, it is the values we hold dear, it is our principles of equality and liberty that generations have given their lives to build and preserve.
We have no choice in fighting this war of ideas against Islamic supremacism. The war against Islamic supremacism is a war that we must win. If we lose, we will lose the identity, the meaning, and the values of America itself.
Fear No Evil.
[Postscript - see also Sources documents for additional reading and background information.]