The Corner

The Justice Department and the Islamists

At the Daily Caller, Neil Munro has an important report this morning about the Obama Justice Department’s continued outreach to Islamist organizations. Ken Timmerman adds further context, relating that top Justice officials — at the urging of Islamist groups like CAIR (identified as an unindicted coconspirator at the Department’s Hamas financing prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation) — have ordered that federal law enforcement agencies purge their training materials of information that demonstrates the nexus between Islamic doctrine, Islamist ideology, and aggression by Islamist terrorists.

I am quoted in Neil Munro’s report. While I think his central thrust is accurate and I am grateful that he is shining light on such a significant subject, there was an inaccuracy in his use of the term “Islamic” when I’m confident that I actually said “Islamist” — and whether he misheard me or I misspoke, that is certainly what I intended. This morning, I sent Neil the e-mail below, to clarify and to explain why the distinction makes a difference. 


Your Daily Caller report this morning, “Progressives, Islamists huddle at Justice Department”, is very valuable and I hope it is read widely. One correction, though: I did not say “Islamic ideology” is collectivist and redistributionist, or that “Islamic groups” are on the same page as Leftists on many important matters. I said “Islamist” on both counts. It’s an understandable error — we were both in a rush when we spoke by phone Thursday morning. But it is important to be accurate on this score.


I try to be careful to distinguish between Muslims in general and Muslim organizations that adhere to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law (including the rejection of separation between mosque and state) and that oppose the West and Israel. I reserve “Islamic” for the former and refer to the latter as “Islamist.” I do not believe Islamist organizations, which tend to have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, are representative of most American Muslims. Indeed, the worst aspect of the Justice Department’s continued outreach to Islamist organizations is that it enhances their prestige. 


For example, the Islamic Society of North America, cited in your report as one of the groups invited by the Justice Department to attend the Wednesday meeting, was shown during the Department’s 2004-08 terrorism financing prosecution, the Holy Land Foundation case, to have colluded in the Brotherhood-led conspiracy to support Hamas. This evidence led prosecutors to designate ISNA as an unindicted coconspirator. It is one thing for the Justice Department to decide not to pursue further legal action against groups like ISNA — a decision that may well be rooted in legitimate prosecutorial concerns about, for example, the staleness of the proof. It is quite another thing, though, for top Justice officials to be turning to ISNA and like-minded groups for advice on how our agents should be trained; for guidance about how investigations should be conducted; and for suggestions about how our law might be re-shaped to provide additional protections to law-breakers while narrowing the First Amendment rights of all Americans. It is baffling to me, as I imagine it would be to most Americans, that our top law enforcement officials solicit the views of organizations whose history of legal compliance is checkered and whose goals include making law enforcement less effective. 


By increasing the influence of these Islamist organizations, the Justice Department (like the executive branch as a whole) demoralizes authentic Muslim moderates and reformers. This makes their invaluable work much more difficult. It also undermines the broader community of American Muslims, who do not see Islamist groups as their representatives.


Best regards,

Andy McCarthy