Gregg Roman: Trump Should Shift Focus from Fighting Obama’s ‘Violent Extremism’ to Fighting ‘Radical Islam’

Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum, told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow of Breitbart News Daily that he expects President Trump to proceed with his planned commission to study radical Islam.

Roman said the Middle East Forum has “drafted an off-the-shelf proposal to give President Trump whenever he thinks it’s time to begin this policy idea he spoke about back in August of last year, some really quick ways to get this moving forward.” The Middle East Forum report to which he referred is here.

“There was a working group that President Obama convened back in 2010 that was called the Countering Violent Extremism Working Group,” he recalled. “They came up with such quotes like, ‘Jihad as a holy war is a European invention,’ ‘The Caliphate’s return is inevitable,’ ‘Sharia is misunderstood,’ ‘Islamic terrorism is a contradiction in terms because terrorism is not Islamic by definition.’ There was a complete muddying of the waters as it relates to the intersection of Islamism as the political ideology that seeks to implement sharia across the West, and that of terrorism.”

“Now, the gem that was really great about Trump’s speech back in 2016, in August, was that he didn’t call this issue ‘violent extremism.’ What he called it was ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’” Roman continued, giving his own preferred definition of the term as “Islamist-inspired terrorism against Western targets.”

“The first thing he did, that I think any president would have to do, is define the problem that the White House would be trying to solve. So he did that. The second thing we would recommend to the president, as it’s written in the report, is to make sure that the structure of this commission should be much like that of what President Reagan put forward when he was trying to find ways in which to defeat the Soviet Union,” he recommended.

“The third thing is once we identify the structure of how this commission would look, we’d have to say who’s going to be on it. We urge the president to put representatives of law enforcement, the military, the intelligence community, diplomatic specialists, but also Muslims themselves, members of the Muslim reform movement and victims of Islamist terror,” he said.

“It’s not just inviting government representatives; it’s also inviting private citizens – those who might be able to reform Islam from within and those who have been victims of terror attacks emanating from Islamist terror groups like al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and so on and so forth,” he explained.

“The fourth thing about this commission is that it has to have a strong mandate. It can’t just be another organization, rather another quasi-organization, launched by the White House without any teeth. It should have the power to subpoena. It should have the power to call individuals not just to testify, but also to offer compelling evidence. And it should have the ability to recommend charges to the Justice Department for American groups that may be supporting Islamist activity in the United States,” he said. “It’s time to get the politics out of countering terrorism, and it’s time to really start sinking American law and teeth into this.”

“Lastly, the commission itself should implement its recommendations through legislation that the Congress would offer and also through executive orders that the president might put forward. It’s time to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. It’s no longer time to dance around the question like the Obama administration has done for the past eight years, prior to Trump being sworn in,” Roman concluded.

Marlow asked who Roman sees as allies on Capitol Hill in this endeavor and “who are the people who might be a force for preventing things like this from getting done.”

“Two of our allies that I really have to give words out to – I think there’s four of them that I would mention, but first Congressman Bill Johnson and also Ron de Santis are amazing on these issues,” Roman replied. “They’re working with us on another project, which is another recommendation for the administration called the Israel Victory Caucus, but they are two individuals that I think are at the forefront of combating radical Islamic terrorism.”

“The other two that I think you have on your show today are Keith Rothfus and Mike Kelly that are individuals that I’ve worked with when I was out in Pittsburgh in another function, before I came to the Forum, but they’re also at this,” he continued. “Especially Keith Rothfus’ work on terrorism finance. He’s doing it right now from an angle on how drugs affect the funding of terrorism, both here and also the criminal organizations behind it south of the border.”

“The individuals with the committees that are taking an interest in this, in the Senate you have the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and also the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security in the House – McCaul in the House and Johnson in the Senate,” he said. “We sat down with their advisers and some of the subcommittee staff, the subcommittee staff directors,” said Roman. “It’s really important to understand that it’s not just the staff who are on board with defining the problem and trying to find a solution to it, but also many members of Congress are also interested in this. We had great meetings when we went down to the Hill last week, before the publication of the report.”

Marlow asked what Roman would like to see President Trump say to Congress on the topic of radical Islam during his upcoming address.

“I think definitive plans beyond the drafting of the executive order on immigration and extreme vetting that came out in the first few days of his administration, what he plans to do,” Roman replied. “He gave a directive to Secretary of Defense Mattis to draft a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days of him drafting the order. I think it’s time that that plan not necessarily be shared – because President Trump has indicated he doesn’t intend to share his battle plans, which he shouldn’t with the public – but general guidelines on how he intends on getting that done.”

“The second thing is I’d like to hear him offer a stripping of the Countering Violent Extremism program that the Department of Homeland Security put forward under President Obama and a firm commitment that he will not be giving federal dollars to Islamist groups like the Muslim Public Affairs Committee or the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” he continued. “We saw two subsidiaries of these groups, allies, get hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funding. I don’t think it’s a good idea to give Islamists money to solve Islamist-backed terrorism.”

“The third thing that I’d like to see is him offer a definitive mindset and blueprint for him introducing his committee and commission on radical Islam. Those three things I think would be good starting steps for him to announce on policy,” he said.

“But I don’t necessarily expect this is going to be the platform for which he will make this speech,” Roman added. “I understand it’s more on domestic policy, tax reform, his infrastructure spending plan, so I won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t announce it. But if he does, those are the three things I would look for.”

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