Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) chaired a hearing for the subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday in which he accused the Obama administration of willful ignorance for failing to use the words “radical Islam.” The hearing was criticized by Democrats in the subcommittee who said the hearing was simply an argument over semantics.
“We cannot fight radicalization with further radicalization,” Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE) said during the hearing. “We can and must defeat terrorism without sacrificing our constitutional principles and to sacrifice these principles and blame over a billion Muslims … only serves to divide Americans, to alienate the Muslim world and legitimate the murderous groups.”
A few of the experts agreed with Coons and argued that the rhetoric surrounding the battle to get the administration to use ‘radical Islam’ would not fortify the country’s national security.
Video | C-SPAN.orgEdit descriptionwww.c-span.orgMichael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former undercover FBI agent, said that using terms like “radical Islam” actually “puts us on a path to perpetual war.” He added, “[this language] only serves to stoke public fear, xenophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.”
The semantic debate over “radical Islam” is not a new one. While President Obama doesn’t use the term, neither did George W. Bush. “Americans understand we fight not a religion,” Bush said weeks after the 9/11 attacks. “Ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil.”
“Like the Obama administration, the Bush administration correctly judged that the term ‘radical Islam’ was divisive and adversarial, and would alienate the very people we wanted to communicate with,” Emile Nakhleh, a retired senior intelligence service officer and former director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program at the CIA, wrote for Vox. “Trump and those who echo his views must realize there is no such thing as one Islamic world or one Islamic ideology — or even one form of radicalism in the Muslim world. Many diverse ideological narratives characterize Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries and the 1.6 billion Muslims across the globe. To paint them all with the same broad brush of radicalism and extremism is absurd, dangerous, and politically self-serving.”
Many other terrorism scholars seem to agree. Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the New York Times that the term has troubling connotations, and it could be harmful for ordinary Muslims. “Why would you feel such a need to use this particular combination of words, when the vast majority of us agree that this is terrorism and that it should be stopped or countered?” he asked. “These terms are being used as dog whistles.”
Those that fell on Cruz’s side of the issue in the hearing were medical doctor Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who is known for his conspiratorial views on Islam in the United States, a national security consultant named Chris Gaubatz, who accused two Muslim members of Congress of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (a group that Cruz has targeted with a bill that would label them a terrorist group), and Philip Haney, a former Customs And Border Protection Officer with the Department of Homeland Security.