Discussion of the ongoing crisis of the spread of radical Islamist ideology in America was the subject of a recent Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing.
Committee chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) expressed his growing worries about radical Islamic ideas in his opening remarks, stating, "The only way to solve a problem is to admit you have one." He stressed a growing problem of extremism worldwide and noted that the United States has "got to get to a point where people can feel free andsafe to practice in the morning on a baseball field, or walk in the street or raise a family."
The committee’s goal was to shine a light into some of the methods and tactics that should be put in place to combat this hateful ideology.
Addressing the Islamic extremist issue was met with general agreement among the witnesses. Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Stanford University voiced her urgency for a solution to this matter by highlighting the crucial differences within the nature of Islam which she highlights spiritual and political ideologies. Ali stated, "Political Islam rejects any kind of distinction between religion and politics, mosque and state. Political Islam even rejects the modern state in favor of a caliphate … Political Islam implies a constitutional order fundamentally incompatible with the US Constitution and with the ‘constitution of liberty’ that is the foundation of the American way of life."
This clear distinction was critical to addressing the conversation of Islamic terrorism to narrow down hateful rhetoric and ideas that are promoted in such communities.
Dr. John Lenczowski of the Institute of World Politics demonstrated in his opening statement that the problem with ideology and extremism is "not principally a military problem, but a political, propaganda, ideological, cultural and religious doctrine challenge.” He highlighted the issue of homegrown terrorists and hateful ideology being hunted strictly as military and intelligence problem as "trying to eradicate mosquitoes in your back yard by inviting all your friends over for a garden party, arming them each with shotguns and shooting mosquitoes all afternoon … The problem is that there is a puddle in the back yard and something is going on there: it is the spawning of new mosquitoes – and we are doing very little about it."
Lenczowski emphasized that efforts should be made to attack this issue from a ideological perspective rather than a strictly combative offensive.
According to Asra Nomani of the Muslim Reform Movement, the conversation with regards to hateful ideology has been a long time coming. While addressing the committee she stated, "I’ve been waiting for this hearing for fifteen years because we have been a able to have a conversation about ideology and terrorism when it comes to Islam."
A devout Muslim herself, she pleaded with the committee to realize the dangerous rhetoric that is being put forth in American minds is easily accessible. She demonstrated home simple it was to purchase books and pamphlets that praise Sharia Law inside the United States and condemned mosques that spew hateful rhetoric to their followers. She emphatically stated, "This is is not the Islam my parents practice."
A large portion of the hearing focused on former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael E. Leiter’s experiences dealing with Islamic radicalism and how proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget cuts by the Trump administration could potentially harm some critical programs such as the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team (VIPR) a Transportation Security Administration program specifically authorized to "augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States.” However Leiter said we must shift tactics from earlier attempts at stopping terrorism. Much like what Lenczowski said, Lieter explained we "we’re [previously] worried about huge scale attacks in a way that we don’t face the same manner today."
Pieter highlighted a need for social programs, prevention of isolation among communities and community policing as solutions to combating and educating against radical Islamic ideology on a local level.
The hearing proved the committee has opened a critical discussion with regards to the very real threat of Islamic ideology and how a failure to prevent such cancerous beliefs from spreading can result in far greater damage throughout the United States.