WASHINGTON, D.C. — FBI Director James Comey declared that “radical Islamic terrorism” is an “umbrella term” that accurately describes acts by “savages… [and] maniacs” in groups such as the Islamic State.
That is significant because President Barack Obama and other Democrats have refused to use the term “radical Islam” when describing terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims. Those jihad attacks include the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino, California which killed 14 Americans.
During a national security discussion at the Newseum Wednesday night, Comey was asked by the moderator whether using “radical Islamists” to identify ISIS jihadists is productive and “whether people’s religious identity features in the assessment of the [terrorism] threat or if it’s more divisive to our society than valuable.”
“My job is kind of crazy and so I’m so busy I don’t spend a lot of time following some of those discussions, but ISIL’s message is one about leaning to a particular faith, which is Islam,” responded the FBI director.
“And so it is a message that is aimed at and resonates with those who are either raised Muslim or converted to be Muslim, and so the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ is accurate in the sense as an umbrella term.”
“But in our work we’re focused on — so what group are we talking — is it ISIL, is it AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], is it AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], is it al-Shabaab and… they’re trying to recruit people, troubled people, right? Outliers who are part of a great faith and so inevitably it leads us in our investigations into contact with communities of that faith,” he continued.
Comey noted that he is concerned that the current rhetoric in the United States against adherents of Islam, prompted by recent attacks inspired by Islamic terrorist organizations, may end up driving the American Muslim community away from cooperating with law enforcement.
He said the federal government relies on the U.S. Muslim community to find out who is being recruited by jihadist groups.
“One of the things I’ve been worried about in the wake of some of the recent conversations in public and some of the rhetoric is, we depend upon those good people, millions of good people, Muslims in this country, to tell us when they see somebody being recruited from among them because that’s where the savages are aiming their recruiting,” said Comey. “And we have worked so hard to build relationships with those folks and they’re very valuable and people tell us ‘I think this young man is on the wrong path.’”
“What would be a terrible thing to have happen is for those folks to feel that the government is somehow pulling away from them and doesn’t want that relationship,” he added. “We not only want it, we will work to protect it.”
He pointed out that the FBI also investigates hate crimes carried out against individuals because of their national origin or religious identity. “I want people to know we also investigate hate crimes and civil rights violations,” he declared. “If people in this country think they’re being picked on or bullied or attacked or threatened because of their national origin or their religion, I hope they’ll tell us because we will take that very, very seriously.”
Comey said the FBI’s relationship with the Muslim community is “low key.”
“We try to make sure our presence in interacting with the communities is low key, but it’s probably poorly understood,” he noted. “Not just with Muslim communities but with other communities that we interact with.”
“We have the same values,” he added. “We don’t want people killing people and no parent — whether they’re Jewish or Hindu or Chrisitian or Muslim — wants their children hijacked by maniacs. So our interests are shared, but maybe is a story that’s under-told.”