"FOX News Sunday" Host vs. Jeh Johnson: Islamic State Doesn't Deserve The "Dignity" Of Being Called Islamic


JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS: Let's talk about terrorism, ISIS, ISIL, your acronym for it and the president's approach to this. He has been criticized from a number of different fronts, for not calling this a battle against Islamic extremism.

Why won't he acknowledge that we are fighting Islamic extremists?

JEH JOHNSON, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, first of all, from my perspective, whether it's referred to as Islamic extremism or violent extremism, what it comes down to is ISIL is a terrorist organization that represents a serious potential threat to our homeland which have to be addressed militarily and through a whole of government approach, which is why homeland security these days is so important, law enforcement here in this country, our countering violent extremism efforts in this country. We had a summit about that this week.

So, it is a dangerous terrorist organization that has to be dealt with --

ROBERTS: But is this --

JOHNSON: -- from my perspective.

ROBERTS: -- not a religious ideology --


JOHNSON: Well, let me say this. In our engagements around the country, I do a lot of these myself -- in Muslim communities, Islamic cultural centers, in places like Minneapolis, Boston, L.A., Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, the thing I hear from leaders in the Muslim community in this country is, "ISIL is attempting to hijack my religion. Our religion is about peace and brotherhood and ISIL is attempting to hijack that from us." And they resent that.

Most victims of ISIL are, in fact, Muslims.

So it seems to me that to refer to ISIL as occupying any part of the Islamic theology is playing on a -- a battlefield that they would like us to be on. I think that to call them -- to call them some form of Islam gives the group more dignity than it deserves, frankly.

ROBERTS: So -- so this, then --

JOHNSON: It is a terrorist organization.

ROBERTS: So this, then, is not an exercise in being politically correct here at home. This is an exercise in not giving them the legitimacy that they seek?

JOHNSON: Well, it -- that's what I'm hearing from the Muslim community in this country. But more importantly, ISIL is a dangerous terrorist organization and has to be dealt with. They've got some 30,000 fighters on the ground in Iraq and Syria. They have very effective use of the Internet and social media. They have the capability to reach into our homeland to recruit and inspire independent actors here, potentially.

And so, we've got to deal with this in a whole of government approach --

ROBERTS: There -- there are members --

JOHNSON: -- and I'm more concerned about that, frankly, than I am what two words we use to refer to them.

ROBERTS: But there are members of your own party who believe that the president is missing a big part of the picture here by not identifying ISIL as -- or ISIS as Islamic extremists. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii, she is a veteran of the Iraq War, said this to us the other day about strategy.


REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Unless you accurately identify who your enemy is, then you can't come up with an effective strategy, a winning strategy, to defeat that enemy.


ROBERTS: So, you might not call them Islamic extremists because you don't want to give them, as you said, the dignity of being part of the Islamic faith. But if you don't identify them as a radical terrorist religious ideology, can you adequately address the threat and develop a winning strategy?

JOHNSON: Look, ISIL is what it is. It is a terrorist organization that kills Americans --

ROBERTS: But they to become a -- but they want to become a state.

JOHNSON: They want to become a state and they want to become an Islamic state. And to call them Islamic, to call them any form of Islamic gives them too much dignity, in my view, and in the view of a lot of Muslims around the world.

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