Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Sunday that President Obama’s decision not to say the actions of the Islamic State is a form of “radical Islam” is at the behest of the Muslim community.
“The thing I hear from leaders in the Muslim community in this country is ISIL is attempting to hijack my religion,” Johnson told “Fox News Sunday,” referring to the terror group also known as Islamic State, or ISIS.
Johnson said the leaders argue their religion is about peace and brotherhood and “resent” that Islamic State is “attempting to hijack that from us.”
Obama is facing sharp criticism, even from within his own party, for instead using the term “violent extremism” to describe the actions of ISIS and other terror groups that are based on a form of Islam.
“If we don’t identify our enemies, we cannot defeat them,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, told Fox News on Wednesday. “Unless you accurately identify who your enemy is, then you can’t come up with an effective strategy, a winning strategy to defeat that enemy.”
Obama on the same day defended his choice of words by saying the term "radical Islam" gives such groups religious legitimacy they don't deserve.
“I want to be very clear about how I see it: Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam,” he said. “We must never accept the premise they put forward.”
Johnson, who appeared on all of the major Sunday talk shows, also made a similar argument.
“To refer to ISIL as occupying any part of the Islamic theology is playing on a battlefield that they would like us to be on,” he said. “I think that to call them some form of Islam gives the group more dignity than it deserves frankly. It is a terrorist organization.”
Johnson also said he was more focused on the potential for Islamic State, with an estimated 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, to recruit Americans and inspire them to carry out terror acts.
“Whether it's referred to as Islamic extremism or violent extremism, what it comes down to is ISIL is a terrorist organization that represents a serious potential threat to our homeland, which has to be addressed,” he said. “I’m more concerned about that frankly than I am about what two words we use to refer to them.”
Johnson also supported some of the arguments put forth last week at a White House summit on terror extremism including ones about having to defeat Islamic State and other groups through social media.
In addition, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “We can't kill our way out of this war. We need to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups -- the lack of opportunity and jobs among them.''
Johnson said Sunday the U.S. is attempting to defeat terror groups “militarily” through an international coalition.
However, the U.S. must also use social media and get involved in Muslim communities to thwart such groups' successful efforts to use the Internet to recruit foreign fighters, he said.
“We need to be involved in the relevant communities in this country to thwart their recruitment efforts and to help build the counter-narrative to the one that is being put out by ISIL right now," Johnson said. ... "It does involve a whole of government approach.”