Radical Islam, Trump Has Lost His Focus
By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Wall Street Journal
August 10, 2017
Candidate Donald Trump vowed to take a fresh approach to
Islamic extremism. He ditched the politically correct language of the Obama
administration by declaring that we were mired in an ideological conflict with
radical Islam, which he likened to the totalitarian ideologies America had
defeated in the 20th century.
Mr. Trump also promised, as part of his immigration policy,
to put in place an “extreme vetting” system that screens for Islamic
radicalism. He vowed to work with genuine Muslim reformers and concluded with
the promise that one of his first acts as president would be “to establish a
commission on radical Islam.”
Mr. Trump has had more than six months to make good on
these pledges. He hasn’t gotten very far. The administration’s first
move—a hastily drafted executive order limiting immigration from seven
Muslim-majority countries—backfired when it was repeatedly blocked in court.
Worse, subsequent moves have tended to run counter to Mr.
Trump’s campaign pledges. Aside from a new questionnaire for visa applicants,
there has been no clarity regarding the promised “extreme vetting” of Muslim
immigrants and visitors. The promise to work with and empower authentic Muslim
reformers has gone nowhere. The status of the promised commission on radical
Islam remains unclear.
Perhaps most discouragingly, the administration’s Middle
Eastern strategy seems to involve cozying up to Saudi Arabia—for decades the
principal source of funding for Islamic extremism around the world.
Some administration critics have blamed the loss of focus
on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who became White House national security adviser in
February. The most charitable formulation of this criticism is that military men
who slogged their way through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an aversion to
the argument that we face an ideological opponent, as opposed to a series of
But I put the responsibility on Mr. Trump. With regard to
radical Islam, he simply seems to have lost interest.
Is all hope of a revamped policy on radical Islam lost? Not
necessarily. Prominent members of Congress—among them Sens. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.)
and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Reps. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) and
Trent Franks (R., Ariz.)—understand that Islamism must be confronted with
ideas as well as arms.
And this need not be a partisan issue. In the early years
after 9/11, Sens. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.)
and Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) worked together to analyze the threat of
Islamist ideology. Even President Obama’s former representative to Muslim
communities, Farah Pandith, who visited 80 countries between 2009 and 2014,
wrote in 2015: “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an
insidious presence . . . Funding all this was Saudi money, which paid
for things like the textbooks, mosques, TV stations and the training of
Imams.” In 2016, addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chris
Murphy (D., Conn.) sounded the alarm over Islamist indoctrination in
Pakistan, noting that thousands of schools funded with Saudi money “teach a
version of Islam that leads . . . into an . . . anti-Western
We have already seen one unexpected outbreak of
bipartisanship in Washington this summer, over tightening sanctions on Russia in
retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s many aggressions.
I propose that the next item of cross-party business should
be for Congress to convene hearings on the ideological threat of radical Islam.
“Who wants America on offense, with a coherent and intelligible strategy?”
Newt Gingrich asked
in 2015, when he called for such hearings. Then as now, if the executive branch
isn’t willing—if the president has forgotten his campaign
commitments—lawmakers can and should step up to the plate.