Clinton: Repeating the Words ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ is a Distraction, Plays Into Terrorists’ Hands

By Patrick Goodenough | November 20, 2015 | 12:14am EST
Hillary Clinton speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on Thursday, November 20, 2015. (Photo: Don Pollard/CFR)

( – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pushed back Thursday against critics of her and others’ reluctance to use the term “Islamic terrorism,” calling it a “distraction” and saying that it gives terrorists “more standing than they deserve.”

“The obsession in some quarters with a clash of civilization, or repeating the specific words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ isn’t just a distraction, it gives these criminals, these murderers, more standing than they deserve,” she said in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It actually plays into their hands by alienating partners we need by our side,” Clinton added.

“Our priority should be how to fight the enemy. In the end, it didn’t matter what kind of terrorist we called [Osama] bin Laden, it mattered that we killed bin Laden.”

Clinton in her speech and a question-and-answer session used the term “radical jihadism” several times, and also referred to “jihadis” and “jihadists.”

She said that in the contest of ideas against an ideology of hate it must be clear that “Islam is not our adversary.”

“Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism,” she said.

Clinton conceded, however, that there was a problem of extremism in the Muslim world.

“We still can’t close our eyes to the fact that there is a distorted and dangerous stream of extremism within the Muslim world that continues to spread,” she said.

“Its adherents are relatively few in number, but capable of causing profound damage, most especially to their own communities throughout an arc of instability that stretches from north and west Africa to Asia.”

Members of the Obama administration, including Clinton when she was secretary of state, have deliberately avoided using the term “Islamic” or “Islamist” in reference to terrorists or terrorism emanating from the Islamic world.

During a Democratic presidential debate last weekend, Clinton declined to characterize the enemy as “radical Islam.”

Asked whether she agreed with Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio’s assertion that “we are at war with radical Islam,” she said, “I don’t think we’re at war with Islam. I don’t think we at war with all Muslims. I think we’re at war with jihadists who have –”

“He didn’t say all Muslims,” interjected the moderator. “He just said ‘radical Islam.’ Is that a phrase you don’t –?”

“I think that you can – you can talk about Islamists who clearly are also jihadists,” Clinton said, adding that the U.S. has to reach out to Muslim countries and have them as part of the anti-terror coalition.

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