Homeland Security

Tillerson on Fighting Terrorism: 'Only the Muslim Faith Can Handle This'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English in Wellington, New Zealand, on June 6, 2017. (State Department photo)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in New Zealand today that the London attacks underscore that when it comes to fighting terrorism “only the Muslim faith can handle this.”

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Bill English, Tillerson emphasized the importance of global partnerships in counterterrorism efforts. “And the tragic events in London are just, here again, we’re seeing it as to how it manifests itself. I was in London only 11 days ago on the heels of the Manchester attack, and before I can leave and get back home again, we have another incident,” he said.

“This is the nature of the challenge before us, and it is why in our initiatives in the Middle East, in Riyadh, we said we have to win this fight on the battlefield. But defeating them on the battlefield will not end this,” he added. “We have to win this fight in the ideological sense as well, and that means getting into the social media space, getting into the mosque, getting into the majlis, getting into the conversation.”

Tillerson said he was “encouraged” when he saw the news that more than 200 Muslim clerics in the UK vowed to not say funeral prayers for the three terrorists who attacked London Bridge and Borough Market over the weekend.

Khuram Butt, 27, and Rachid Redouane, 30, were both from Barking in east London. The third attacker, Youssef Zaghba, 22, an Italian citizen with an Italian mother and Moroccan father, had been living in east London.

The Muslim Council of Britain said in a statement that “such criminals defile the name of our religion and of our Prophet, who was sent to be a mercy to all creation.”

“Consequently, and in light of other such ethical principles which are quintessential to Islam, we will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer for the perpetrators and we also urge fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw such a privilege. This is because such indefensible actions are completely at odds with the lofty teachings of Islam,” the statement said. “These vile murderers seek to divide our society and instill fear; we will ensure they fail. We implore everyone to unite: we are one community. In the face of such dastardly cowardice, unlike the terrorists, we must uphold love and compassion.”

Tillerson said the funeral refusal is “condemning their souls, and that is what has to be done.”

“Now, only the Muslim faith can handle this. And in the discussions with the Muslim countries in Riyadh this was one of the commitments we asked, and there was a center created to counter extremism,” he added. “This is the role of that center is to begin to get into this ideological debate that only the Muslim community can have with itself.”

“We want to be supportive, but it’s really they have to take this on, and I think we’re beginning to see early signs that they are ready to take this on.”