WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Thursday heard testimony about the ideological roots that lead to violent Islamist extremism and what the U.S. can do to diminish the influence of the ideology here at home.
At the Committee’s seventh hearing in a series on Islamist radicalization and homegrown terrorism, witnesses distinguished between Islamist ideology – which has a political agenda – and Islam the religion, and outlined steps that should be taken to identify, isolate and ultimately eliminate the threat of homegrown terrorism and the ideology that supports it.
“We are particularly interested in how Islamist ideology facilitates the radicalization process, the end point, of which is the planning and execution of a terrorist attack,” Lieberman said. “We must better understand the roots of Islamist ideology so we can better guide our international, national and local efforts to counter its spread under its many different names, whether it is Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizb ut-Tharir, the Muslim Brotherhood, or other splinter groups that promote the ideology.”
The Committee’s lead witness, Maajid Nawaz, a former leader of Hizb uut-Tahrir in the United Kingdom, explained how he was radicalized by Islamist ideology and how the ideology leads to terrorism. Mr. Nawaz now directs the Quilliam Foundation, a “counter extremism” think tank committed to fighting the influences of Islamist ideology in the United Kingdom.
The 9-11 Commission report said: “Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda.”
The Committee plans to continue its work to ensure the defeat of al-Qaeda and the ideology, especially to the extent the ideology has found a home in the United States and can inspire homegrown terrorist attacks.
Earlier this year, the Committee released a bipartisan staff report titled “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat” that concluded that the use of the Internet by Islamist terrorists has increased the threat of homegrown terrorism in the United States.
Other witnesses at Thursday’s hearing were Dr. Peter Mandaville, Associate Professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University; Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute; Dr. Fathali Moghaddam Professor, Department of Psychology at Georgetown University; and National Counter Terrorism Center Director Michael Leiter.