Mitt Romney: Jihadism Is Not Part of Islam

Romney says recent remarks about the jihadist threat have nothing to do with Islam.

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Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

With Obama's big speech to the Muslim world in the offing, I asked Mitt Romney in an interview yesterday about a major speech on national security that he gave on Monday at the Heritage Foundation (see above video). In it, Romney referred to Islam only insofar as he referred to "jihadism," a term he used four times in the address, and to "mullahs" and "ayatollahs."

I asked Romney how he'd respond to Muslim complaints that his speech characterized Islam in entirely sinister terms. His response surprised me:

I didn't refer to Islam at all, or to any other religion for that matter. I spoke about three major threats America faces on a long term basis. Jihadism is one of them, and that is not Islam. If you want my views on Islam, it's quite straightforward. Islam is one of the world's great religions and the great majority of people in Islam want peace for themselves and peace with their maker. They want to raise families and have a bright future.

There is, however, a movement in the world known as jihadism. They call themselves jihadists and I use the same term. And this jihadist movement is intent on causing the collapse of moderate Muslim states and the assassination of moderate Muslim leaders. It is also intent on causing collapse of other nations in the world. It's by no means a branch of Islam. It is instead an entirely different entity. In no way do I suggest it is a part of Islam.

Romney sees no connection whatsoever between Islam and the jihadists? Experts often say that Islamic terrorists are promoting a distorted version of Islam, but they seldom claim that there's no connection between the religious tradition and the jihadists who claim to act in that tradition's name.

The Heritage Foundation itself has issued papers and sponsored events on "radical Islam," "revolutionary Islam," and "militant Islam." Would Romney argue that none of these phenomena are related to Islam but rather constitute an entirely distinct phenomenon called jihadism?