John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, does not believe we are at war with jihadists because “jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there’s nothing holy, legitimate, or Islamic about murdering innocent men and women.”
On May 26, 2010, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan said, “Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists.”
That is Mr. Brennan’s view, but how about the view of the Islamist enemies who are fighting us?
Osama bin Laden described his war against the United States as a jihad as early as March 1997, when he told CNN that “we have declared jihad against the U.S., because in our religion it is our duty to make jihad so that God’s word is the one exalted to the heights.”
The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, wrote in a pamphlet titled “Jihad” that “Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one’s ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad).” The present spiritual adviser of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, writes in his book, “Fiqh of Jihad,” that Muslims may engage in violent jihad against Israel.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has pulled together many more examples of our Islamist enemies viewing their fight against the United States as jihad, but the most relevant of these to Mr. Brennan is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
On Feb. 13, 2010, Mr. Brennan gave a speech at the New York University School of Law that was organized by ISNA, using it as a platform to again argue that we should not identify our enemy using the religious term “jihad.” The tragic irony is that Mr. Brennan decided to make his case for not conflating jihad and violence at an event organized by the very same ISNA that has explicitly used the religious term “jihad” to support violence.
In December 1986, ISNA’s official magazine “Islamic Horizons” ran an article proclaiming that “jihad of the sword is the actual taking up of arms against the evil situation with the intention of changing it,” that “anyone killed in jihad is rewarded with Paradise,” and that “a believer who participates in jihad is superior to a believer who does not.”
This is not an isolated tale of radicalism with the Islamic Society of North America. The federal judge presiding over the largest terrorist financing case in American history found “ample evidence” connecting ISNA to the Muslim Brotherhood operations known as the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association for Palestine and Hamas. Further, the trial exposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s 1991 memorandum guiding its work in America that listed ISNA as its number one group in our country.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders support violent jihad. Hamas, of course, is a terrorist organization that is also the Muslim Brotherhood’s chapter in Palestine. The reality is that the Islamic Society of North America is part and parcel with these terrorist organizations, and Mr. Brennan has legitimized ISNA by speaking before the organization and even praising its leader at the time.
This should be a serious enough offense to disqualify Mr. Brennan from being CIA director. We need a leader who seeks to eliminate our enemies, not one who helps them become legitimate actors in our society. Moreover, we need a leader who will recognize the motivations of our enemies.
We are exponentially more likely to fail in defeating our enemies if we fail to understand their motivations and use them to forge a strategic path to address them. Will America take this risk with a CIA director who refuses to recognize that we are at war with Islamic jihad?
Alex Cortes is the executive director of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative public policy organization.