Republican presidential candidates constantly harp on about Radical Islam and Muslims when referring to terrorist threats.
The Washington Post reports:
It has become a sort of mantra in the U.S. election cycle. When faced with questions of national security, Republican presidential candidates consistently harp on the importance of calling out “radical Islam” — something they believe the Obama administration and their Democratic opponents don’t do.
“It sounds to me that the president is more interested in protecting the reputation of Islam than he is in protecting the American people from our very clear threat,” Mike Huckabee said in response to President Obama’s Oval Office speech on Sunday.
Obama had used the occasion to signal his determination to destroy the Islamic State militant group, but he also took pains to stress that this would not come at the expense of the country’s Muslim communities, which have been placed under considerable scrutiny. Rights groups complain of a growing climate of Islamophobia.
“Let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional,” Obama said. “Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) seemed unmoved. “It is time for a dramatic shift in both foreign and national security policy,” he said. “The recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have further confirmed that radical Islamic terrorists are at war with the West.”
That line, in various forms, has been aired by virtually all the main GOP candidates. Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio likened Muslims to members of the Nazi Party and went on to frame the security threat as one linked directly to a whole religion.
“This is a clash of civilizations…. There is no middle ground on this. Either they win or we win. And we need to begin to take this seriously. These are individuals motivated by their faith,” he said.
Language like this perplexes many experts who study the origins and tactics of the Islamic State, as well as the means to combat the extremist threat.
There are many valid, important debates to be had about the strategy to both safeguard the United States as well as counter the extremists. Critics of the Obama administration justifiably argue that it didn’t take the danger posed by the Islamic State seriously enough in the early stages of the group’s rise.
But that need not devolve into a debate over semantics.
“You don’t have to call it ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ to take it seriously,” Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told WorldViews.
Officials in the White House, State Department and elsewhere are all undoubtedly aware of the complexity of Islamist movements and the fringes of the ideological spectrum that these extremists occupy.
“I’ve struggled to understand the fixation among some Republican candidates regarding this particular phrase,” Hamid said. “It seems it should be relatively low on the list of things to focus on in the overall fight” against the Islamic State.