In what appears to be another victory for the US Muslim Brotherhood, Associated Press is reporting that “religious terms” such as Islamic extremism and Jihad will be removed from the document known as the National Security Strategy. According to the AP report:
President Barack Obama’s advisers will remove religious terms such as “Islamic extremism” from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism officials said. The change is a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war and currently states: “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.” The officials described the changes on condition of anonymity because the document still was being written, and the White House would not discuss it. But rewriting the strategy document will be the latest example of Obama putting his stamp on U.S. foreign policy, like his promises to dismantle nuclear weapons and limit the situations in which they can be used. The revisions are part of a larger effort about which the White House talks openly, one that seeks to change not just how the United States talks to Muslim nations, but also what it talks to them about, from health care and science to business startups and education. That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo, Egypt, and promised a “new beginning” in the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terror and winning the war of ideas.
The AP report also identifies a little known White House office that appears to have played a major role in the language change:
“You take a country where the overwhelming majority are not going to become terrorists, and you go in and say, ‘We’re building you a hospital so you don’t become terrorists.’ That doesn’t make much sense,” said National Security Council staffer Pradeep Ramamurthy. Ramamurthy runs the administration’s Global Engagement Directorate, a four-person National Security Council team that Obama launched last May with little fanfare and a vague mission to use diplomacy and outreach “in pursuit of a host of national security objectives.” Since then, the division has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terror but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio. Before diplomats go abroad, they hear from the Ramamurthy or his deputy, Jenny Urizar. When officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming. Ramamurthy maintains a database of interviews conducted by 50 U.S. embassies worldwide. And business leaders from more than 40 countries head to Washington this month for an “entrepreneurship summit” for Muslim businesses.
A post from 2008 discussed a Department of Homeland Security memo urging employees not to use terms including ‘jihad,’ ‘jihadist’ or ‘Islamic terrorist’ in describing Islamic terrorism. As that post noted, the efforts of the US Brotherhood to change US counterterrorism language dates back to the 1988 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa:
Prior to the activities of Al Qaeda, MPAC and CAIR focused their efforts on defending the activities of Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas, arguing as noted above that they were motivated by suffering and oppression. Following the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, the Brotherhood groups were faced with a new issue- organized Islamic terrorists attacking the United States and killing civilians who were not party to any conflict involving Muslims. After initial denials that Muslims were involved in the attacks, the U.S Brotherhood groups began arguing that although the grievances were “legitimate”, the action were “un-Islamic.” In total, the U.S. Brotherhood effort is in accord with the larger Muslim Brotherhood notion of “defensive Jihad” which holds that Jihad is justified where Muslims or “Muslim honor” is under attack. Therefore, under this definition, Hamas/Hezbollah violence is not terrorism because it is justified and Al Qaeda violence is not “Islamic” because it is not justified.
Another earlier post discussed the Leadership Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, an organization whose report expressed support for changing the language used to describe terrorism. Members of the Leadership Group include well-known past and present political figures including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, US Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Ingrid Mattson, and Obama Muslim “Faith Advisor Dalia Mogahed. The US Brotherhood effort to remove terms such as “Islamic extremism”, in turn, is part of a larger rhetorical strategy which appears designed to obscure the true goals of the organization.
It should be noted that the change in the tone of US counterterrorism language was presaged in President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John Brennan’s February speech at NYU at which Ingrid Mattson was present.