Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Commander in Chief Blinding America of Enemy

The Obama administration’s reluctance to acknowledge and confront the religious motivation behind Islamist terrorism is not helping the counter-terror effort, leading experts warn in a new report.

-- From "Critics: US too low-key on Islamic radicalism talk" by Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press 7/12/10

The Obama administration's recent move to drop rhetorical references to Islamic radicalism is drawing fire in a new report warning the decision ignores the role religion can play in motivating terrorists.

Several prominent counterterror experts are challenging the administration's shift in its recently unveiled National Security Strategy [NSS], saying the terror threat should be defined in order to fight it.

The question of how to frame the conflict against al-Qaida and other terrorists poses a knotty problem. The U.S. is trying to mend fences with Muslim communities while toughening its strikes against militant groups.

In the report, scheduled to be released this week, counterterrorism experts from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy argue that the U.S. could clearly articulate the threat from radical Islamic extremists "without denigrating the Islamic religion in any way."

President Barack Obama has argued that words matter, and administration officials have said that the use of inflammatory descriptions linking Islam to the terror threat feed the enemy's propaganda and may alienate moderate Muslims in the U.S.

In the report, which was obtained by The Associated Press, the analysts warn that U.S. diplomacy must sharpen the distinction between the Muslim faith and violent Islamist extremism, identify radicalizers within Islamic communities and empower voices that can contest the radical teachings.

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From "Experts to Obama: You Can’t Ignore the Islamic Ideology Behind Terrorism" by Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com International Editor 7/13/10

[Washington Institute for Near East Policy report authors] J. Scott Carpenter, Matthew Levitt, Steven Simon and Juan Zarate contend that just because ideology is not the only driving force behind violent Islamic terrorism does not mean it can be ignored.

Instead, the administration should recognize Islamism as “the key ideological driver” behind the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, and prioritize an effort to combat the ideology, they say.

“To be sure, officials need to make very clear that they do not consider Islam itself a danger, only the distorted version of Islam perpetrated by radical extremists. But they – and, in particular, the president – must also come to terms with the fact that individuals implicated in each of the recently exposed plots in the United States were imbued with a common radical ethos.”

The NSS unveiled in May used variations of the phrase “al-Qaeda and its affiliates” repeatedly in identifying the enemy. The word “Islam” appeared twice – the U.S. was not fighting a war against Islam, it said, and “neither Islam nor any other religion condones the slaughter of innocents.”

(The NSS released by the Bush administration in 2006 stated that “the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.” It also called Islam “a proud religion” that “has been twisted and made to serve an evil end.”)

The authors recommend that the administration broaden cooperation with foreign governments, NGOs and others “to empower credible Muslim voices to marginalize” Islamist radicals.

At home and abroad, the government should more effectively identify and support Muslim opinion-leaders who can provide alternative influences to “radicalizers” in their communities.

“Some prominent Muslim American groups have questionable links to banned groups that should disqualify them as trusted government partners in the effort to combat extremism,” the report says. “Others, perhaps less vocal and often active at a more local level, warrant greater institutional recognition and support.”

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