Michael E. Leiter, director of the counterterrorism center, questioned some of the memo’s conclusions during a July 10 Senate hearing, said spokesman Carl Kropf.
“I do think you cannot separate out the fact that the terror fight we are fighting today involves Islam as a religion,” Mr. Leiter said under questioning from Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent. He added, however, “the ideology which motivates these terrorists has very little to do in reality with the religion of Islam.”
Oneof the most sensitive issues in the new report involves the word jihad.
An Arabic word derived from the verb meaning “to strive,” it appears about 30 times in the Koran, but “the preponderance of references refer to internal striving to prove one’s piety,” said William Graham, a professor of Middle East Studies at Harvard University.
About 10 references are clearly to fighting, said Mr. Graham, who is also dean of the university’s divinity school.
The word, often translated as “holy war,” has been used in a military context throughout Muslim history, said Princeton University Professor Emeritus Bernard Lewis, a leading authority on Islam.
Several terrorist groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, include the word in their titles.
The Red Team report said jihad is an obligation of all Muslims under Islamic law and must be performed “until the whole world is under the rule of Islam.”
However, the Koran states that the embrace of Islam must be voluntary, Mr. Graham said.
Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said he had no problem using words such as jihad, provided it was made clear that militant groups were misusing the terms to justify their violent actions.
“They’re not talking about jihad in a theological sense,” Mr. Zogby said. “Jihad means to struggle or strive for the good and against evil. These people are talking about violent revolution.”
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, cautioned against interpreting the debate as a dispute between those who think Islam as a whole is bad and those who think Islam as a whole is good.
“Islam is manifestly in crisis, with bad people who are Muslims fighting against good people who are Muslims. That should be the point - how to mobilize the good people against the bad people,” Mr. Schwartz said.
The Red Team report said the government documents in question reflect “the views and opinions of a very small [number] of Americans whose contributions may have escaped critical review. … While there is concern that we not label all Muslims as Islamist terrorists, it is proper to address certain aspects of violence as uniquely Islamic,” the report says.
The report notes that some terms for terrorists, such as “Islamo-fascist,” are “conspicuously offensive.”