Congress Kills Proposed Pentagon Study of Islamic Extremism
In a fascinating story that was apparently overwhelmed by other news events, US Rep Trent Franks (R-Az) had proposed an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would have required the US military to perform a “strategic assessment” on “violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine.”
The amendement was recently defeated 208-217.
Fellow Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) had an unusual take on the proposal:
“If…we’re going to study one religion and only one, we’re going to look at their leaders and put them on a list — only them — and you are going to talk about what’s orthodox practice and what’s unorthodox, then you are putting extra scrutiny on that religion,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is Muslim…
“Nobody is saying you can’t study terrorism,” Ellison said during floor debate. “You can study what motivates people to commit acts of terrorism. And we should. But we don’t — not equally. The fact is that this amendment singled out and stigmatizes one religious group.”
Having an arm of the US government perform a study and assessment on religion is indeed a precarious position, and there are legitimate issues to debate with that proposal. But Ellison’s rebuttal is simply ignorant.
First, the text of the amendment made no reference to identifying leaders or “put[ting] them on a list.” (You can read the entire, short amendment here.)
Second, while it might have the effect of “putting extra scrutiny on that religion,” only “that religion” has been cited as the primary motivating factor for virtually every combatant fighting the United States today. ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban, al Shabaab — they’re all explicitly motivated by Islam. Even within the United States every single person who has been religiously motivated to attack the US military or threatened to do so has been motivated by Islam.
With that in mind, it is foolhardy to insinuate it would be wrong for the US military — at some level — to consider and understand the facets, impacts, and influence of Islam, its tenets, or its “misuse” by those who intend to harm America and claimed to be motivated by that faith.
In point of fact, there’s nothing to say the US military hasn’t already done (or is currently doing) precisely what Franks has proposed — and there’s nothing to prevent them from doing so. In that regard, it is possible Frank’s amendment may have been political “top cover” for a controversial — but potentially necessary — portion of the cultural intelligence analysis of America’s adversaries.
In that regard, Ellison’s misguided opposition exacerbates the problem. He and his allies have made any potentially negative insinuation about Islam untouchable — even when that may have the effect of tying the hands of the men and women in uniform around the world.
That said, given Keith Ellison’s voting record on defense issues, he likely doesn’t care.