Less than a week before Omar Mateen walked into an Orlando gay club and killed or wounded more than 100 people, the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) submitted its Countering Violent Extremism report to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson. The report instructs the DHS not to use any language that might be “disrespectful” to Muslims, including (but not limited to) the words “jihad,” “sharia” and “takfir.”
The report was crafted by an HSAC subcommittee that Secretary Johnson created in November 2015. The head of that subcommittee, Farah Pandith, was appointed by Johnson in May 2015. The subcommittee published the report on June 9.
In addition to combating violent extremism by reaching out to “gender diverse” Americans and teaching youth “appropriate online etiquette,” the report recommends that the DHS “avoid stigmatizing specific communities.”
The report urges DHS officials to “Reject religiously-charged terminology and problematic positioning by using plain meaning American English.”
For example, the report says the DHS should be “using American English instead of religious, legal and cultural terms like ‘jihad,’ ‘sharia,’ ‘takfir’ or ‘umma.'”
The report acknowledges that, “There is a disagreement among scholars, government officials, and activists about the right lexicon to use around the issues of violent extremism.”
Nevertheless, the report states, “Under no circumstance should we be using language that will alienate or be disrespectful of fellow Americans.”
“We must speak with honor and respect about all communities within the United States. We should give dignity to the many histories and diversities within our nation and advocate for a consistent whole of government approach that utilizes agreed terms and words. Tone and word choice matter,” the report states.
The report includes other recommendations for countering violent extremism, such as: “Focus on gender diversity of youth through careful attention to the range of push and pull factors that attract individuals of differing gender.”
The report also recommends countering extremism by teaching youth “appropriate online etiquette.”
The report instructs the DHS to “Develop a curriculum in partnership with the Department of Education and education experts and non-profits to disseminate to schools, teaching children appropriate online etiquette to mitigate online hate.”
The DHS website states that HSAC, “Provides organizationally independent advice and recommendations to the Secretary, including the creation and implementation of critical and actionable policies for the security of the homeland.”