3) A number of American Islamic organizations and leaders openly preach the ideology that America is at war with Islam and that attacks against U.S. military personnel in defense of Islam are legitimate. As I have previously reported, military officials actively embrace these same organizations and leaders, and rely on them as their advisors on Islamic affairs notwithstanding their documented advocacy of jihadist ideology. In certain cases, these groups and leaders are funded and represent the interests of foreign (and sometimes hostile) governments or worse. This was the case with Abdurahman Alamoudi, the Islamic leader tapped by the Defense Department in the 1990s to establish the Muslim military chaplain corps, who the government now acknowledges was an al-Qaeda fundraiser in America and is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for his direct involvement in an assassination plot directed by Libyan intelligence. The Pentagon selected Alamoudi despite repeated warnings from experts and extensive evidence of his terrorist ties. While law enforcement has begun to distance themselves from some of these extremist groups, most notably the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Pentagon continues to consult with them and legitimize their claims to represent “authentic” American Islamic leadership. As a result, our military leadership continues to legitimize and propagate the very ideology that is killing our service members.
There are other points that could be added, but these three are representative of how far away the military is from a solution.
No doubt there are critics, like CAIR, who warn that any attempt to address the internal and external jihadist threat to military personnel will put every Muslim in the military and American Islam itself under the microscope. To the contrary, the violent and anti-American jihadist ideology is fairly easy to identify and distinguish from classic Islamic teaching. In fact, it is the critics themselves who readily conflate jihadism and Islam.
For these critics to say that you can’t target jihadist ideology without targeting the whole of Islam is an acknowledgment on their part that the two are inseparable — a point I doubt they are ready to concede. Regardless, they can’t have it both ways: either jihadist ideology has nothing to do with Islam, as Islamic groups constantly represent, and thus it can be addressed without infringing on their freedom of religion; or they must admit, along with the “Islamophobes,” that jihadist ideology and the violence it promotes are part and parcel with Islam. The question for these critics is unavoidable: which is it?
It should be acknowledged that the military already has existing policies for weeding out neo-Nazis, gang members, and those with psychological problems from their ranks. An existing 1996 Defense Department directive explicitly prohibits a wide range of “dissident activities” targeting “organizations espousing supremacist causes,” namely racist and neo-Nazi groups, notwithstanding the religious trappings that those groups have adopted to cloak their ideology. These measures are encouraged by civil rights groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. If it is true that jihadist ideology has nothing to do with Islam, as we are told, then surely there should be no problem addressing jihadist ideology as the military already does with racist or gang threats.
The case of Major Hasan illustrates that no matter how virulent the views or outspoken a military service member might be about their anti-American or jihadist sentiments, that appears to be no impediment to a permanent pathway to promotion in our armed forces. The killings at Ft. Hood are not the first to be inspired by jihadist ideology from within or without, and until military leaders begin to take action to address this rapidly growing problem, it is likely they won’t be the last. Until the threat of jihadist ideology is acknowledged and addressed, our military bases and recruiting centers will remain attractive and vulnerable targets.