A new Department of Homeland Security report urges rejecting use of Islamic terms such as "jihad" and "sharia" in programs aimed at countering terrorist radicalization among American youth.
The Homeland Security Advisory Council report recommends that the department focus on American milliennials by allocating up to $100 million in new funding. It also urges greater private sector cooperation, including with Muslim communities, to counter what is described as a "new generation of threats to the Homeland related to the threat of violent extremism."
The funds would be used for hiring experts and new social media programs and technology to influence young people not to join terror groups.
"The department’s CVE efforts are an attempt to protect our nation’s young people from extremists who prey upon the Millennial generation," the report says.
"The department must reframe the conversation to reflect this reality and design a robust program around the protection of our youth, which must include predator awareness and an understanding of radicalization. In doing so, our citizens will be better equipped for this threat."
Under the section on terminology, the report calls for rejecting use of an "us versus them" mentality by shunning Islamic language in "Countering Violent Extremism" programs, or CVE, the Obama administration’s euphemism that seeks to avoid references to Islam.
Under a section on recommended actions on terminology, the report says DHS should "reject religiously-charged terminology and problematic positioning by using plain meaning American English."
Government agencies should employ "American English instead of religious, legal and cultural terms like ‘jihad,’ ‘sharia,’ ‘takfir’ or ‘umma,’" states the June 2016 report by the Council’s countering violent extremism subcommittee.
Jihad is the Islamic concept of holy war that is the primary call to arms for Islamic terrorist groups around the world, including the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sharia law is the anti-democratic Islamic supremacist legal code that critics say has prevented U.S. Muslims from assimilating into American society. Takfir is the Arabic term for apostasy, and umma is the word used to describe the entire Muslim community.
The DHS report stated that to avoid a confrontational "us versus them" stance in public efforts to counter Islamic radicalization, government programs should use the term "American Muslim" instead of "Muslim American."
The limits on counterterrorism terminology outlined in the report are the latest sign of verbal censorship within government imposed by President Obama. The president this week launched into an angry public denunciation of Republican critics of his policy of avoiding use of the expression "radical Islam."
Obama sought to deny charges that political correctness was behind the policy of not linking Islamic terrorism to its religious roots, and dismissed those who favor highlighting the links as a Republican political ploy.
The comments prompted a backlash from counterterrorism experts who say that failing to publicly link Islamic terrorism to its religious tenets makes it more difficult to counter jihadist ideology.
The terrorist attack Sunday in Orlando was carried out by a radical Muslim, Omar Mateen, who declared loyalty to ISIS during the rampage that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub on Sunday. The FBI said Mateen was "radicalized" through the Internet.
President Obama’s program to counter ISIS came under fire from CIA Director John Brennan during a Senate hearing Thursday.
Some gains are being made in taking back territory controlled by ISIS and limiting its finances, according to Brennan.
"Unfortunately, despite all of our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach," he said.
"The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses on territory, manpower, and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly."
The DHS report said the average age for foreign fighters joining ISIS is 26, with the Internet "playing a primary or contributing role" in radicalization.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kansas) a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, criticized the DHS language restrictions.
"The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Interim Report makes the dangerous recommendation that the Obama administration continue to deny the threat that radical Islamic terrorism poses," Pompeo said.
"Jihadists are the ones who have made this fight ‘us vs. them’ with every violent terrorist attack—from bringing down the World Trade Center towers, killing American soldiers overseas, beheading journalists, or shooting Americans in Orlando," he added. "DHS’s emphasis here on political correctness is absolutely dangerous and places America and our military at risk."
In the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said the administration’s failure to properly address radical Islam has made the country less safe.
"Over and over again, we have seen the Obama administration having ample information to stop a terrorist attack, and yet because of the political correctness, because of the ideology of this administration that won’t even say the word ’jihad,’ won’t even say the words ’radical Islamic terrorism,’ they look the other way and the attacks go forward," Cruz said in a Senate floor speech Thursday.
Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism expert, said that banning the jihadist terminology is similar to "Newspeak," the fictional language used for totalitarian control in George Orwell's book 1984.
"This is simply outrageous from the perspective of national security," said Gorka, the Horner chair of military theory at Marine Corps University.
"Banning words that our political elite don't like is not only a contravention of the First Amendment, it directly endangers the lives of Americans," he added.
"When the enemy that slaughters our citizens in Orlando, San Bernardino, and Boston calls themselves 'jihadis' no one, not even the president, has the right to censor that reality and give them another name."
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official now with the American Enterprise Institute, said the report’s concerns about terminology are hindering counterterrorism efforts.
"If the Obama team and DHS used half the effort they expend debating vocabulary actually advancing strategies to stymie and defeat enemies, America would be safer," he said.
The report also recommends using former terrorists in "programming and messaging" efforts, including "far right, anti-government, and other extremists groups." The report also mentions white supremacist, sovereign citizen, and anarchist groups as posing a terror threat but makes no mention of left-wing extremist groups.
The report also calls for a focus on "gender diversity of youth through careful attention to the range of push and pull factors that attract individuals of differing gender." The gender focus was not further explained.
On the use of social media, "the department must fully understand and leverage social media in its policy and programmatic activities," the report said.
America’s children, the report says, will grow up in a world of expanding human ingenuity and knowledge. "As that process of human evolution, including the expansion of freedom and liberties across the globe proceeds, our government must remain vigilant, adapt, and evolve to protect them," the report concludes, adding that "we must do so by demonstrating faith in the American people, in their government, and we must be confident in the power of America’s ideas."
A DHS spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
Farah Pandith, a Council on Foreign Relations fellow, and chairman of the panel that produced the report, did not return emails seeking comment.