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The White House Commission on Radical Islam: A Recommendation


By Christopher C. Hull

This paper for the Middle East Forum (MEF) lays out a responsible approach to implementing President Donald J. Trump's commitment to create a domestic commission focused on halting the spread of what he termed "radical Islam."[1]


In August 2016, Donald Trump gave a speech on how to "Make America Safe Again" in which he said, "One of my first acts as President will be to establish a commission on radical Islam." This paper lays out a responsible approach to establishing such a commission.


Click links to original paper:

Executive Summary

The Context: Making America Safe Again

I. How Should the Commission Be Structured?

II. What Should the Commission's Mandate Be?


III. Whom Should the Commission Include?

The discussion of the commission's structure above included the general recommendation that the commission should include one or more individuals from the following categories:


1. Experts on terrorism and radical Islam

The commission should include a core group of those who have deeply studied and written about the threat America faces. As a former Reagan Defense Department official pointed out, anyone selected for the commission should be clear-eyed about Islam's role in creating that threat, and must not be complicit in the current system's failures.[79]


Those who might be considered include:

  • Alan Dershowitz, law professor at Harvard University, author of Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge
  • Steve Emerson, the Investigative Project on Terrorism
  • Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  • Philip B. Haney, founding member of DHS, author of See Something, Say Nothing
  • Sam Harris, author of five New York Times bestsellers, including Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz)
  • Douglas Murray, the Henry Jackson Society (UK)
  • Daniel Pipes, the Middle East Forum, author of Militant Islam Reaches America; In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power
  • Patrick Poole, national security and terrorism consultant with works published in Middle East Review of International Affairs, the Journal of International Security Affairs and Middle East Quarterly
  • Dr. Michael Welner, forensic psychiatrist, author of Psychopathy, Media, and the Psychology at the Root of Terrorism
  • Sam Westrop, senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute; former head, Stand for Peace (UK)


2. Voices for Reform of Islam

In his speech, Mr. Trump expressed a desire to "include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us. We want to build bridges and erase divisions."[80]


Then-candidate Trump selected an excellent criteria for that selection: that Muslims be "reformist voices."[81] Note the implications of both words: An information warfare expert in the counter-terror space points out that the call for those who are "reformist" implies that Islam is in need of reform, which of course it is. Agreement on that point should be the minimum qualification for service on or testimony to this commission, the expert argues.[82] And "voices" means he or she is one of the few courageous Muslims who have spoken out. Unless a Muslim or former Muslim has previously publicly stated that Islam is in need of reform, that Muslim simply does not meet the President's criterion.


One reform-minded Muslim, a national leader, recommended including a designated number of reformist Muslims on the commission – at least two or three – so that the commission benefits from a range of views. He also urged setting a number of non-Muslims, which given the number of categories would be a minimum of five, and a maximum of perhaps eight, such that the commission's size does not become ungainly.[83]


In addition, among these individuals, there should be one Urdu and one Farsi speaker. Moreover, according to a founding member of DHS, the commission needs to have one or two native Arabic speakers. "Without that," he says, "you're driving blind. Most of the real sources are in Arabic."[84]


Finally, the information warfare expert notes that "We must not allow Muslims [alone] to define for us what the threat is. If it's something that humans are capable of perceiving, it's not just Muslims who can do it." That is, those selecting commission members should keep in mind that being a Muslim neither uniquely qualifies someone to understand the threat, nor guarantees that the individual will correctly communicate the threat even were that understanding perfect.[85]


With all that in mind, those to be considered might include:

  • Dr. Tawfik Hamid, former member of Jamaa Islamiya
  • Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)
  • Asra Nomani, author and former Co-Director of the Pearl Project
  • Shireen Qudosi, writer and editor of Qudosi Chronicles


3. Current or Former Elected Officials

Anyone selected from among the ranks of elected officials must have demonstrated both a grasp of the perils of radical Islam and the courage to speak plainly about them.


Some options would include:

  • U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-GA
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-NY
  • Former House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI
  • U.S. Senator Jim Lankford, R-OK
  • Former U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, D-CT
  • U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-NJ
  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo, (ex officio), represented by the Deputy Director or another designee
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions (ex officio), represented by the Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, or another designee


4. Representatives of Law Enforcement, Intelligence, Military and/or Diplomatic Community

Those on the front lines facing down the threat know best what it looks like. For that reason, the commission should include representatives of law enforcement, the military and/or the diplomatic community, including potentially:


  • Amb. John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
  • David A. Clarke, Jr., Sheriff of Milwaukee County
  • Richard Higgins, former Defense Department official, Combatting Terrorism and Technical Support Office, Irregular Warfare Section, and Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict
  • DHS Sec. John F. Kelly (ex officio), represented by the Director, Homeland Security Advisory Council or another designee Defense Sec. James Mattis (ex officio), represented by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Affairs or another designee
  • Andrew C. McCarthy, former Assistant U.S. Attorney who led 1995 World Trade Center terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman
  • Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey
  • Robert Reilly, former head of diplomacy at the United States Information Agency (USIA)


5. Representatives of the Technology Industry

The above-mentioned reformist Muslim leader, Zuhdi Jasser, recommended expanding the categories of the commission to include a member of the technology community – someone who understands the latest incarnations of media and social media – while acknowledging that the Internet is only "the final trigger" by which Islamists communicate. That, he said, was the lesson of a recent report that came out: We have exaggerated the problem of so-called "online radicalization." Evaluating it on a case-by-case basis, it becomes clear that online activity is only an avenue, not the single path today's jihadis tread.[86]


The challenge with selecting a member of the technology industry, especially in media and/or social media, is that those leaders have it so uniformly wrong. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, for instance, have all faced criticism – and now even lawsuits – for allowing Islamist traffic and/or shutting down voices critical of radical Islam.


Accordingly, those who stand out as likely candidates include:

  • "Rusty Shackleford," the alias of the Editor-in-chief Emeritus of counter-jihad blog The Jawa Report
  • Peter Thiel, the former head of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook
  • J. Michael Waller, Ph.D., former Annenberg Professor of International Communication at Institute of World Politics and faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School in information operations and strategic influence
  • A. Aaron Weisburd, founder of Internet Haganah, which "appl[ied] weaponized information to problems related to terrorism and hostile foreign intelligence services."[87]


6. Victims of Radical Islam and Their Families

Arguably those with the greatest stake in the outcome of the fight are those who have already paid the heaviest price. Accordingly, the commission should represent victims of radical Islam and their families. Ideal candidates include:

  • Melvin Bledsoe, father of Carlos Leon Bledsoe, a.k.a. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad
  • Tim Brown, former New York firefighter, 9/11 victim
  • Daris Long, father of U.S. Army Private William Long, murdered by Carlos Leon Bledsoe, a.k.a. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad
  • Terry Strada, national chairwoman of 9/11 Families United For Justice


IV. How Should the Commission Charge the Government with Implementing Its Recommendations?

Appendix A: Full text of Donald J. Trump's speech on Radical Islam

Appendix B: Selected Presidential Commissions, 1900-2016

Appendix C: Sample Executive Order Creating a White House Commission on Radical Islam

Appendix D: The Case of the United Kingdom

About the Author


Full article here.



[1] Politico staff, "Full text: Donald Trump's speech on fighting terrorism," August 15, 2016, accessed December 9, 2016. Note that the term "radical Islam" is itself a recommended topic for the Commission to consider.

[79] Interview by author with former Reagan Defense Department official, January 17, 2017.

[80] Politico staff, "Full text: Donald Trump's speech on fighting terrorism," August 15, 2016, accessed December 9, 2016.

[81] Politico staff, "Full text: Donald Trump's speech on fighting terrorism," August 15, 2016, accessed December 9, 2016.

[82] Interview by author with information warfare expert in the counter-terror space, January 18, 2017.

[83] Interview by author with reform-minded Muslim national leader, January 16, 2017.

[84] Interview by author with Founding Member of the Department of Homeland Security, January 16, 2017.

[85] Interview by author with information warfare expert in the counter-terror space, January 18, 2017.

[86] Interview by author with reform-minded Muslim national leader, January 16, 2017.

[87] A. Aaron Weisburd, LinkedIn profile, accessed January 27, 2017.