On Sunday morning’s Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR interviewed Mehdi Hasan, the political director of the Huffington Post’s U.K. edition. Online, the headline was “Journalist: It's Not Islam That Inspires U.K.'s Young Jihadis.” NPR never mentioned that Hasan is also a “presenter” for al-Jazeera with his own program “Head to Head.”
As it became plain that the murderer of American journalist James Foley was British, NPR guest host Linda Wertheimer asked Hasan about his latest article, titled "What The Jihadists Who Bought 'Islam For Dummies' On Amazon Tell Us About Radicalization." He insisted ISIS was an outgrowth of U.S. and U.K. foreign policy under George W. Bush and Tony Blair:
WERTHEIMER: You say, in your latest article, that the Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. Why do you think that?
HASAN: Well, it's not just my view. I know it's counterintuitive to say that people fighting for groups calling themselves Islamic State or people fighting in what they call a jihad are not being motivated by religious faith or fervor. But it's even the view of British Security Service, MI5, which found in a report a few years ago that far from being religious zealots, a larger number of those involved in terrorism don't practice their faith regularly. They lack religious literacy. They could be called religious novices. MI5 found that actually a well-established religious identity actually protects you from violent radicalization. It's not a driver of that radicalization.
When Wertheimer insisted “surely, religion must play some role,” Hasan briefly acknowledged reality. “Look, religion does play a role. Let's not be naïve about that. You know - perverted and politicized form of Islam does act as a vehicle, as a means of articulating anger and mobilizing masses. But the religious part of it -- the political Islam part of it -- comes later. It's not what makes people get out of bed in the morning and go out to fight.”
Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch represents the view NPR cannot abide. He replied to Hasan's claims: "Yeah, and Barack Obama’s government classified Nidal Hasan’s jihad murders at Fort Hood as “workplace violence,” and Obama just claimed that the Islamic State had nothing to do with Islam. This is the kind of thing that American (and British) officials say; but repeating it doesn’t make it so."
Naturally, Hasan pleased NPR for blaming the war in Iraq for creating ISIS:
WERTHEIMER: Do you think there is anything the UK government could or should do to stop these young people turning to extremist groups?
HASAN: Oh, there's a lot the government can do and are doing, to be fair to the British government, in terms of trying to fight extremism and radicalization in communities and trying to keep an eye out on some of the drivers of radicalization in terms of trying to fight racism and Islamophobia. I mean, for someone like myself who's a long-standing critic of British foreign policy in the Middle East, I would say let's be very clear, Linda. Islamic State is a product of a western foreign-policy vision which was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They didn't exist until a year after the invasion in 2004. So we have to look at some of our big foreign-policy decisions which have contributed to this mess that we're now having to deal with.