Brennan: Comments That 'Taint' Islam 'Tremendously Detrimental' to Counterterrorism
WASHINGTON -- CIA Director John Brennan said comments that "taint" Islam "as being the source of the problem" are "tremendously detrimental to our interests and to a better understanding of this phenomenon" of terrorism.
Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum this week, Brennan said he's met with "princes or presidents and prime ministers throughout the Middle East" who are "outraged that their community -- their Muslim community -- has been infected by this cancer, individuals who have this distorted and very perverted interpretation of Islam that pursue these psychopathic agendas of horrific violence, and they recognize that they have a very important role -- the leading role to help purge their communities of these influences."
"These individuals who are fanatics -- extremists and terrorists -- they are driven by this ideology that is not rooted in Islam," Brennan said. "It's a psychopathic ideology that is very absolutist, that either you are with us or against us."
"And that's why the establishment of the caliphate -- the so-called caliphate by ISIL, as well as al-Qaeda's agenda, really, are trying to cause this ...clash of civilizations. They want to drive this wedge between the West and the Muslim world."
Brennan said he has not spoken with Donald Trump, but "anybody who promotes that type of characterization of the problem, and mischaracterization, in my mind, I would try to describe how those comments are being interpreted and how they are feeding this narrative that the terrorist organizations are propagating, that it does not help to arrest this cancer that has taken over so many of the communities because of a lot of the underlying conditions that exist within Middle East and Africa, South Asia, the areas, because of economic deprivation, political disenfranchisements, lack of opportunity."
"These terrorist organizations and this perverted version of religion preys upon their sense of hopelessness," the CIA director continued. "And by making comments that are incendiary and are viewed as attacking a religion or a people or a community only further drive those individuals to grasp onto those extremist views because they interpret a lot of the comments that are made as the Western United States are out against them. And so, when those comments come forward, the comments of a Bin Laden or others resonate with them."
"And they say, yes, you're right. You know, the West is determined to exterminate us."
Brennan was asked how he can separate terrorism from Islam when terrorists are quoting the Quran and enjoy support from some Muslims, particularly in certain parts of the world.
"People can take any faith -- the Jewish faith, the Christian faith -- and distort it and use it for violent agendas. And we've seen through the course of history that individuals who think that they are the vanguard of the effort of Christianity or Judaism or even Hinduism or other religions, really have this distorted interpretation of their faith," Brennan replied.
"And the overwhelming majority, the 99.9 percent of Muslims do not support that type of violent agenda. Yes, there may be some individuals who are considered to be radical within their Islamic faith or even extremist," he added.
"But the use of this horrific violence, the type of violence that's being perpetrated by ISIL is something that we have not seen, I think, previously... their philosophy is, well, even if the innocents are killed, God will sort them out and they'll go to heaven even earlier."