Trump-O-Meter

Establish a commission on radical Islam

“One of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us."


Establish a commission on radical Islam

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at PolitiFact.com.

We still don’t know the exact details of Donald Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS, but one thing we do know is that he wants to establish a commision on radical Islam to curb threats abroad.

“One of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us,” Trump said at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, in August 2016.

Trump has not released specifics about the commission’s makeup or task. The idea itself raises some important questions.

WHY HE’S PROMISING IT

According to Trump, the commission’s task would be educate citizens about radical Islam and identify threats both in and out of the United States.

“The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radicalism, to identify the warning signs of radicalization and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization,” Trump said at the same rally in Ohio.

Trump had joined other Republicans in criticizing President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for not using the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” Obama had argued that using that label would embolden terrorists to characterize their efforts as a holy war. Clinton, however, did say the term while explaining she preferred not to for similar reasons as Obama.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

John Mueller, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a terrorism expert, said that Trump’s promise would be easy to uphold because he could simply rename an existing government entity, such as the Homeland Security Department’s Countering Violent Extremism initiative.

Countering Violent Extremism is a grant program that works to identify the main cause of threats and provide resources to communities to sustain prevention of violent extremism.

Mueller said Trump could change the group name to reflect an emphasis on “Islamic” violent extremism.

In May 2016 Trump said he might select former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to head his commission on radical Islam. Since then, Giuliani has withdrawn his name from consideration for cabinet and White House positions.

WHAT’S STANDING IN HIS WAY

There are some issues that would need to be considered if Trump follows through with his promise, including the debate over using the phrase “radical Islam.”

“The big question then is to what extent the specificity of the term ‘radical Islam’ clarifies and makes confronting national security issues easier and to what extent it potentially raises civil liberties concerns and makes confronting national security issues more difficult,” said Austin Long, an associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.

Long noted that some people vehemently support the use of “radical islamic extremism” while others believe the phrase is problematic.

Furthermore, Mueller said Trump’s idea does not address the underlying threat of terrorist sympathizers in the shadows carrying out attacks.

“Essentially the problem is the needle in the haystack,” Mueller said.