Katharine Gorka: The OIC’s Political Warfare, September 6, 2013
About the speaker
Katharine C. Gorka was the Executive Director of The Westminster Institute. Katharine spent nearly two decades working in Central Europe. She was the regional head of the USAID-funded Democracy Network program, run by the National Forum Foundation, covering the countries of Central Europe and the Balkans. Katharine later co-founded with her husband, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security (ITDIS), which focused on issues of economic reform and the problems associated with former communists and secret police in post-communist democracies. In her former position as head of the Westminster Institute, Katharine was responsible for helping to define the threat posed by Islamic terrorism and subversion in the United States. She works closely with U.S. government agencies, law enforcement and the intelligence community. Most recently she authored “Sharia Finance and the U.S. Constitution,” and she is co-editor of the volume, Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism to Islamism.
She also spoke at Westminster on the subjects of:
Tracking the Sources of Recent Changes to Counter-terrorism Training (August 29, 2012)
Well, we didn’t plan it this way but we’ve heard a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood so far and I’m glad we have because I feel like it’s been kind of a taboo topic. I want to focus a little bit on a different topic which I think we talk much less about unfortunately and that’s the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Very few people focus on this topic. I can think of only one, Deborah Weiss, who’s here and I really commend her for tracking them as doggedly as she does and I think it’s a tremendous service to the rest of us but I think it’s something we all need to pay more attention to.
We did a lot of work on the issue of the changes to counterterrorism training that were initiated back in the fall of 2011 [which] probably impacted a number of you directly and really looking at why those changes were brought about. And what’s interesting is we traced them back to the OIC and I’ll try and draw that line for you today. I think the OIC is important to look at for a wide number of reasons. They’ve got their hands in a lot of different issues. I’m only focusing on one narrow slice but in a sense it’s the slice that impacts us the most directly because it is the counterrorism law enforcement component.
I want to talk about the OIC by way of talking about the concept of centers of gravity. I think for those of who were concerned about the Islamist threat, the question of what is the center of gravity is one of the most challenging questions, one of the most difficult questions. Who actually is the enemy today? Who is it that threatens the security of the United States and what’s the nature of the threat? Is it violence? Is it subversion? Is it Al Qaeda and the threat of terrorism? Iran? Nuclear weapons? …or the Muslim Brotherhood, which is both threatening regional stability in the Middle East and aspires to make the United States a Muslim nation?
In fact, probably all these answers are correct. I think all of these are a source of threat. We are not threatened today by one distinct enemy whose center of gravity has a street address and a military hierarchy that we can name and locate. This makes the issue of identifying this enemy’s center of gravity very difficult. Why does it even matter? Why is it important to know the center of gravity? To identify the center of gravity is really critical to victory in any conflict.
You have to know the enemy’s source of strength. While each of the different services defines center of gravity slightly differently, the doctrine for joint operations wrote a definition that tries to cover all the bases. Centers of gravity are the characteristics, capabilities or locations from which a military force derives its freedom of action, physical strength, or will to fight.
I think it’s hard to grasp, actually. It’s a big definition. I like the simpler version which is this question: Is there one thing that the enemy must have to continue operations? What is the one thing that the Islamist fighter needs? I would say that one thing is belief. The belief that they are fighting for Allah or as was quoted earlier – the belief that there was justice in their cause. The fact that we do not allow ourselves to talk about belief means we have critically handicapped ourselves and in fact it means we cannot talk about the enemy’s center of gravity.
S. K. Malik, who my husband Sebastian loves to quote, wrote the very important book The Qur’anic Concept of Power. He wrote, “the center of gravity in war is the human heart, man’s soul, spirit and faith.” And then he wrote, “The Qur’anic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies.” If you were schooled on Clausewitz, as most of our strategists are, you will be challenged to understand this concept of center of gravity. And then on top of that if you’re told you cannot talk about religion even when it’s the only thing the enemy will talk about, you are running blind. And I would argue that that is what we are doing now. We are running blind. Even if many people individually have come to understand the nature of the enemy, and have worked to educate themselves about it, which they have and many of you are those people, officially you are not allowed to discuss what you know so the end effect is the same.
So this is my first point: that understanding this enemy’s center of gravity is critical as is grasping his understanding which is so very different from our own strategic center of gravity. In both instances it comes down to belief. It’s not a location. It’s not one particular leader. It’s the belief that he’s serving the will of Allah, that there is justice in his cause. And again I feel I have to throw in the proviso it’s not to say that all who aspire to serving Allah must do so in a warlike fashion but it does mean that the common factor driving the various disparate forces across the globe is the belief that they are serving Allah. And I don’t want to get into the debate right now about whether that is a misguided belief even though that is a very important debate but it’s not my focus right now.
So the enemy’s center of gravity is his belief but then where is his headquarters? Where is his command staff? Who is in charge of his psychological operations? Here again this particular threat presents us with a unique challenge. We have never before faced a threat which is on the one hand so unified in its belief yet so dispersed geographically and so varied by local concerns and constraints as well as by the personalities of individual leaders. But again the failure to acknowledge the central importance of belief can easily lead us down a blind path where one sees only local concerns.
And I’m sorry I don’t think Emanuel is still here. Emanuel – he’s on his way to Nigeria – but anyway Emanuel was here earlier. He’s really one of the great human rights fighters on behalf of what’s happening in Nigeria. His point earlier was well taken. I’d like to use this as an example. It’s not a topic that’s on the front burner at the moment because of what’s happening in Syria and Egypt but it means a very deadly and active conflict and in fact Nigeria’s currently the most dangerous place in the world for a Christian to live.
There’s a longstanding debate here in D.C. about whether Boko Haram should be designated a foreign terrorist organization. Next week Representative Chris Smith is introducing the Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2013. But when a letter was written to one member of Congress asking him to support this bill, this was his response. I think he gets it right in the beginning. He says, “Boko Haram is an Islamist, militant group based in Nigeria that aims to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria, including the implementation of criminal Sharia courts across the country.”
Very simple, straightforward. I think it’s pretty easy to agree with what he said. But listen to this. This is what he goes on with. Because eventually where he arrives with this letter is that he will not support- He doesn’t come out and say these words but the essence of the letter is he will not support this bill. And this is his reasoning for it. This is still the Congressman’s letter, “According to one analyst, Boko Haram itself is not an effect and not a cause. It is a symptom of decades of failed government and elite delinquency finally repining into social chaos.” I don’t even know what that means. The letter went on to say, “The former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria has said it is ‘misleading to think of Boko Haram as an organized terrorist group or conventional insurrection’. In fact, Boko Haram more resembles a cloud of inchoate rage shaped by Islam.”
Oh my god.
So if that’s your belief this is what they propose- This is what the other side proposes is the solution and this is in fact the policy that we’re executing right now, “One way to efficaciously confront Boko Haram would be for the United States to encourage the Nigerian President to deal with poverty and the corruption-driven alienation felt by the population of northern Nigeria, factors that contribute to Boko Haram’s popular support.” This is one of the fundamental problems with our current strategy toward Islamist terrorism. Our leaders are dismissing the importance of belief and they are downgrading, in essence, the enemy’s motivation from one of religious conviction to mere grievance and dissatisfaction. Sometimes I think only an analyst who himself or herself has faith can fully understand the Islamists because at least they understand the power of belief.
To come back then to my original question. The enemy’s center of gravity’s is his belief but where is his headquarters? In essence is one person driving the bus here? Honestly, I don’t think any of us is sure. I’ve not yet heard a convincing answer to this but I think there’s a lot of speculation I mean we can talk about the importance of Qaradawi, we can talk about Qatar, we can talk about the Saudis, the Pakistanis, there are plenty of individuals we can name, but probably in this fight- Probably it’s most accurate to say that there are many headquarters, many generals, many decision-makers and I think it’s critical that we watch all of them. I think even though there is this unifying belief, they are still acting in their own unique ways and we have to watch them all.
But I want to come back now to this notion that I want to focus on. What I think is probably one of the many headquarters and I think it’s an important one and it provides clues to us as to what the enemy is doing and how he’s trying to wage this battle… and it’s the OIC. To the extent that any of us thinks about the OIC at all, I don’t think we give it much thought, you probably just think of it as another one of the alphabet organizations: the OSCE, the EU, or NATO. But I would argue it’s quite different in its nature.
While it was only formally established in 1969, if you look back to the efforts that led to its founding, it will help you to understand its nature and its mission. You can actually probably- I mean if you are drawing a straight line, you can take its history back to 1924, the end of the Ottoman Empire and the collapse of the Caliphate. But according to the history, there’s one sort of official history of the OIC which was published by IIIT, the International Institute of Islamic Thought. So in a sense I think you can call this the approved history. This is a history written by Muslims. In fact, they say the history of the OIC goes back 1400 years. Quote, “Its foundation was laid down fourteen centuries ago when a new community of Muslims was established in Arabia under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad. Its philosophy was formulated in the Qur’an.”
This history goes on to say that the international cooperation embodied in the OIC is based on the Qur’anic concept of the Ummah. It’s a complex concept. It’s talked about many times in the Qur’an and has many different meanings- Not many different meanings but sort of different nuances but the essence of the meaning is that it comes down to a group of well knit people, people united by a common belief or a divinely guided community. Importantly, according to this history, the Muslims identified their unity, the Ummah, with the Caliphate. So then the question becomes with the dissolution of the Caliphate in 1924 where is the Ummah?
Many had the desire to recreate or reestablish something but there was no single entity strong enough to unite all the Muslim communities. Indeed many of the Muslim communities were actually still European colonies at that time. Nonetheless a couple years later after the collapse of the Caliphate [in] 1926 political leaders, scholars started to come together to discuss this problem. They had their first conference in Cairo [in] 1926. They came out with this statement, “It is indispensable that all the Muslim peoples should be represented adequately at an assembly to be held in a country which shall be chosen by the delegates of the Islamic peoples in which the delegates of the peoples shall meet to discuss the measures to be taken with a view to the establishment of the Caliphate, fulfilling all the conditions prescribed by the Sharia, Islamic law. The group had its ups and downs. They met several times. And they went defunct with the start of World War II and revived in 1949.
Why the revival in 1949? IIIT history cites two reasons. A number of Muslim countries had gained independence and so there was a desire that independence be one for all Muslim states and secondly, importantly, Israel had been created, to quote, “The creation of the State of Israel backed by superpowers at the heart of the Muslim world.” Again there were various meetings and efforts over the years but still nothing fully gelled. 1967 saw the defeat of the Arab nations by Israel and King Faisal who was a big actor in this movement… King Faisal of Saudi Arabia called for a pan-Islamic collaboration: quote, “Specifically designed to liberate Jerusalem from alien occupation,” but it was only two years later in 1969 that this call was finally answered. Why 1969? Who knows what happened on August 21st, 1969?
No, an arsonist burnt down the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, yeah, which was under territory under Israeli control. Cables were immediately sent out, calling all Muslims to attend an immediate Muslim summit conference. They managed to come together one month later in Rabat, Morocco with representatives from 24 countries. The meeting at that time was funded by four: Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. That was the formal start of the OIC. It’s enough of a history just to give you a sense of what they’re about.
The question is what does this mean for us today? That was 1969. Today, the OIC has 57 members. It’s become a powerful force. I would argue in a sense – we don’t call it this – but I think in a way, the OIC is what you get when you merge a caliphate with a democracy. You have no one nation leading the Muslim world the way the Ottoman Empire did, but rather you have nations sharing power through the mechanism of the rotating Secretary General, which is how the OIC operates.
One of the big initiatives that a number of people here are focused on are the efforts of the OIC now to control what it calls defamation of Islam and this is going to be a very, very serious issue come this fall. It’s going to come up again in the UN General Assembly, but that’s not the issue that I want to talk about. I want to just, as I said in the beginning, I want to just quickly talk about what has the OIC had to do with how we train our counterterrorism professionals.
December 2005: The OIC came together for its Third Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit. At that meeting they developed a ten year program of action and one of the issues that they said that overall it was addressing what they called the most prominent challenges facing the Muslim world today. One of the issues that they named was combating Islamophobia. How familiar has that become now?
They took a number of steps, they laid this all out. This is all available through the internet. They didn’t make it a secret in any way. They affirmed the need, this was their formal statement, they ‘affirmed the need to counter Islamophobia,’ they established a secretariat to monitor Islamophobia.
And if you all don’t read the monthly bulletin, the Observatory, you might want to take a look because half of us are in there. It’s a very, very detailed bulletin that they put out, that this Islamophobia Observatory puts out. You can find it easily. It’s on the front page of the OIC website. Down on the lefthand column it says Islamophobia Observatory and if you click on to it, you can read their monthly bulletin. And they are tracking it with fine-tooth precision and anything that they can construe as Islamophobia is in there.
But what’s interesting is they said a couple things. One of the things that they were going to do is work through governmental and non-governmental organizations to counter Islamophobia. So what happens? Two years later, we get the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights comes out with this statement, “The Council expresses deep concern for the attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence, and human rights violations.” So this now becomes a thread. It’s a theme that we start to hear over and over again.
This new Observatory, so they said in 2005 they were going to create it, I think in it was up and running in 2008. They came out with their first Observatory report in about March 2008. They talked about preventive and preemptive measures on the part of the OIC and the Muslim world and they talked about the importance of adopting resolutions to combat defamation of religion and the association of terrorism with Islam. So they very specifically went after this issue.
Short time later, a think tank in the UK, the University of Exeter, comes out with a study called Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime London Case Study. It concluded that, “Islamophobia is a wrongly perceived association between being Muslim and being a terrorist,” and it called on the UK government to evaluate their current counterterrorism strategy, stating, “Counterterrorism strategy still wrongly conflates the Al Qaeda threat with other Islamist groups, which in turn licenses anti-Muslim hate crimes.” What’s interesting is they were absolutely up front about who funded this study; Islam Expo, Cordoba Foundation, which was run by the son of the Muslim Brotherhood leader in Iraq, and the Sultan who was a member of the Supreme Council of the UAE. So it was funded by Muslims.
What’s interesting is that then you have the same thing repeated in this country. I think many of you are probably familiar with many of these studies, a number of you were named in them. A whole series of studies came out in this country, talking about our counterterrorism training and how they’re Islamophobic. The first one – and many people don’t remember this but it came out right when we had moved back from Hungary – and it astounded me and that was a big report came out in The Washington Times called Top Secret America. I don’t know if you all remember this where it was coming out and revealing the size of our intelligence and CT communities. It was a huge exposé. Right, then, it was really interesting because one of the big things that it did, it was a wide scale condemnation of the way the U.S. was addressing terrorism in the post-9/11 period.
Listen to this, I’m just going to pull out this single quote. This is The Washington Post, Top Secret America. They put a lot of effort into this. They themselves came out and said, “More than a dozen Washington Post journalists spent two years preparing this study.” I mean that’s a massive effort. Who paid for that? I’d love to know. Quote, “Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.”
You hear the same quote, the same language again and again. It came out in March 2011, a report entitled, “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, Public Servants, and the Threats to Rights and Security.” There was another one. We had the famous Spencer Ackerman’ Danger Room articles, which had a big impact. “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” where it named funders, and trainers, and the ‘misinformation experts.’ I know Frank, you had the honor of being there. What follows? September 2011, the FBI launched a comprehensive, diagnostic review of the FBI and counterterrorism training.
It then went on to our Department of Defense and to this day we are not training on Islam. We are hardly doing counterterrorism training. We put almost a complete stop on training that involved Islam and now because of the budget cuts presumably, I’ve been told the FBI is not training at all. They’re doing their one required JTTF course. I think all other training is on hold. As a side note, their gas rations have been cut as well. I don’t know what that’s about. But I just don’t understand how are we going to fight this threat not only if we’re not allowed to talk about it but we’re not allowed to study it, we’re not allowed to train our professionals about it.