Islamist identity of states like Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is the “underbelly” inspiring terror outfits like ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah, US lawmakers have been told by an American Islamic forum leader.
“Political movements and the Islamist identity of states like the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or the Wahabism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the underbelly inspiring the militant movements like ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hizballah,” M Zuhdi Jasser, president of Phoenix-based American Islamic Forum For Democracy, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
Jasser said it is as “equally foolhardy” in counter- terrorism and counter-radicalisation work to refuse to acknowledge the role of political Islam in the threat as it is to “villainise” the whole of Islam and all Muslims.
“However, those Islamist governments exploit the militancy of jihadists in order to dictate the ruling form of Islam,” he said yesterday in his testimony before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, which organised a hearing on radical Islamist terror.
The lawmakers expressed concern over the mushrooming growth of terrorist organisations.
Congressman Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the Congressional subcommittee said events of the past few days remind how threat from radical Islamic terrorism is changing and how difficult it is to detect it and prevent it as well.
“In my view, we still have not dealt effectively with some of the root causes. We have not effectively dealt with the ideology that radicalises people here and around the world.
“It is essential, moving forward, that we not just try to muddle through, contain, try to prevent a catastrophe, but that we have a strategy that will be successful in dealing with the threat as it is evolving,” he said.
Ranking Member Adam Smith said post 9/11, America pulled together all the different elements of US power, and allies, with the intelligence, law enforcement, military and built a very sophisticated operations centre and tracked al-Qaeda, first, of course, in Afghanistan, then into Pakistan, and Yemen, and elsewhere and has done a successful job of taking out their leadership and then minimising their ability to move forward.
“What we have not been successful at is turning back the ideology. And that is where other groups have popped up, and whether it’s al-Qaeda or ISIL or Ansar al-Sharia, or any of… Boko Haram, dozens of different groups that adhere to this nihilistic, violent death ideology. That ideology has, quite honestly, spread since 9/11. There are more people adhering to it now than there were then,” he said. “And that is the great threat, and that is what we have seen in Europe and here as people not directly affiliated with al-Qaeda or ISIL or any of these other groups, by simply pledging allegiance and going off and committing violent acts in their name,” Smith said.
Asking how to turn back that ideology, Smith said this is particularly important for America to work with the Muslim world on ways to promote the more peaceful brand of Islam that the overwhelming majority of people in that religion adhere to and work with them to defeat the ideology.
“That is a challenge because this is what (al-Qaeda founder) Osama bin Laden wanted. He wanted a war of civilisations. He wanted the West versus Islam. And every time we take a look at this, and cast a broad net and cast aspersions against the entire Islamic religion, we only empower al-Qaeda and ISIL and their message,” he said, using another acronym for the ISIS.