Monday, President Barack Obama picked top counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to become the next head of the CIA. Brennan’s views on radical Islam may concern hawkish Senators who will scrutinize Obama’s choice for CIA chief.
In May of 2010, Fox News reported Brennan defended Jihad as a “legitimate tenet of Islam.”:
The president’s top counterterrorism adviser on Wednesday called jihad a “legitimate tenet of Islam,” arguing that the term “jihadists” should not be used to describe America’s enemies.
During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, John Brennan described violent extremists as victims of “political, economic and social forces,” but said that those plotting attacks on the United States should not be described in “religious terms.”
He repeated the administration argument that the enemy is not “terrorism,” because terrorism is a “tactic,” and not terror, because terror is a “state of mind” — though Brennan’s title, deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, includes the word “terrorism” in it. But then Brennan said that the word “jihad” should not be applied either.
“Nor do we describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’ or ‘Islamists’ because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children,” Brennan said.
The Washington Times Opinion Page met with Brennan three months later at an editorial board meeting and asked him about his remarks. Brennan asked for the meeting because he objected to an editorial the opinion page had written previously.
Brennan lost his temper relatively quickly during the question and answer time between him and then-TWT deputy editorial page editor (now with USA Today) David Mastio:
Then TWT Senior Editorial Writer Jim Robbins questioned Brennan about the issue of jihad. Brennan lost his patience at one point and decided to leave the TWT offices without answering any more questions:
TWT: You mentioned jihad, for example, and would you agree with the lesser and greater and lesser jihad framework? I mean, that’s pretty standard.
BRENNAN: Sure, it is…absolutely.
TWT: Can you give me an example of a jihad in history? Like, has there ever been a jihad…an armed jihad anywhere in history? Has it ever existed for real, or is it just a concept?
BRENNAN: Absolutely it has.
BRENNAN: I’m not going to go into this sort of history discussion here.
TWT: But it’s important to frame the concept, because we want to say that what al-Qaeda is doing is not jihad. They say it is, and Abdul Azzam has said, in fact, ‘there’s not even a greater jihad.’ That that’s just a myth–that hadith didn’t even really happen. That there’s only armed jihad. Ayatollah Khomeini said ‘there is only armed jihad, and it would be useful to be able to characterize or to contrast what they’re doing and what they claim against a legitimate armed jihad in the past.
BRENNAN: I think we’ve finished. I have to get going.