Boston Marathon terrorist attack scene

by Lil Tuttle

The U.S. public policy response today to the serious ISIS and global jihad terrorist threat is missing a critical piece, argues Katharine Gorka, president and co-founder of the Council on Global Security. In remarks to the February Conservative Women’s Network, Ms. Gorka outlined this missing piece and offered insight into policy approaches that would improve Americans’ safety against the global terrorist threat.

Contrary to popular theory, radical jihadists such as the Boston Marathon killers engage in jihad not because they are poor, ignorant people. Rather, virtually all radicalized jihadists believe that they are being good Muslims by following the teachings handed down by Muhammed in the 5th Century. Boston’s Tsarnaev brothers, for example, were highly informed, posting over 2,000 pages of jihadist religious literature on their computer.

Jihadists’ devotion to the Wahhabist, Selafist and Jihadist teaching within Islam is the critical element to understanding – and adequately responding to – the serious global terrorist threat. (See Thread graphic below for a thumbnail sketch of this teaching.)



Jihadists believe that being a good Muslim means accepting the teaching of the 1400-year-old Quran as it is written, and that it cannot be changed or adapted to modernity. They believe the contemporary world must be conformed to the Quran’s medieval law, including the enslavement of other people and the treatment of women as property of men. They also believe that their jihad against non-believers is a personal obligation if they want to be assured a place in heaven.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has built on the jihadist message in two ways:

  • It claims to have established the Caliphate, i.e., an area containing the religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammud; and
  • It has capitalized and elaborated on the notion that this is the End of Time for Muslims—the final jihad.


ISIS’s teaching has proven very effective in drawing supporters to the global jihad movement, which is far larger than ISIS itself. Every country in the world has groups and splinter groups of this teaching’s followers.

With 2.5 million Muslims in the U.S., jihadist teaching represents a serious threat inside our walls. Consider this:

  • ISIS is recruiting and mobilizing supporters in the U.S. at a rate 3 times greater than Al-Qaeda. Since ISIS appeared on the international scene in March 2014, we’ve had 96 interdictions by law enforcement—an average of 4.5 interdictions per month. Al-Qaeda never got above about 1.5 per month.
  • About 65% of the 96 interdictions by law enforcement have been of Muslims under the age of 25. ISIS is radicalizing the young via the Internet, sometimes without the family’s knowledge or consent.
  • Family can be complicit in the radicalization process, however. Only about 18% of the 96 interdictions have resulted from a family member or friend turning them in to law enforcement.
  • Not one of the 96 interdictions resulted from a report by a Muslim imam or community leader to law enforcement. There is no evidence to support the argument that working closely with leaders of the Muslim community will help us in the fight against terrorism.


Perhaps closer relationships can be built with the Muslim community and its leaders, but our policies and responses cannot rely solely on that hope.

The Progressive Response

The progressive response has gotten us to a dangerous place. It is “visionary” in nature, seeing the world as we wish it to be. It focuses on “what can be” if only … [fill in the blank] we work with moderate Muslim leaders to take Islam back from the radicals; … or we respond non-violently to attacks with understanding and friendship; … or we get out of the Middle East entirely; etc.

Progressives’ static visionary response leaves America defenseless, dreaming of safety without concrete policies or plans of action to actually achieve safety.

The Conservative Response

The conservative response is “evolutionary” in nature. It focuses on “what is” – the reality we can identify and analyze.

Following the Edmund Burke concept of incremental change, conservatives’ evolutionary approach studies each new reality as it unfolds and uses that acquired knowledge to inform changes to our policies and plans of actions.

Conservatives’ dynamic evolutionary response holds the greatest hope of reducing the global terrorist threat against us and achieving safety for America.


About the Speaker: Katharine Gorka is president and co-founder of the Council on Global Security. She works closely with U.S. government agencies, law enforcement and the intelligence community on the threat posed by Islamic terrorism and radical ideologies.

Below is full video of Ms. Gorka’s presentation, including the audience Q&A: