Incoming CBP press secretary Katharine Gorka: “The Muslim community in this country really isn’t working with us to prevent” terrorism

Incoming CBP press secretary Katharine Gorka: “The Muslim community in this country really isn’t working with us to prevent” terrorism

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Katharine Gorka, who is expected to take over as the new Customs and Border Protection press secretary, previously falsely claimed that “the Muslim community in this country really isn’t working with us to prevent” terrorism.

CNN reported on June 18 that Gorka “is expected to be the new press secretary at Customs and Border Protection. Acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders told CNN Tuesday that Gorka is expected to take the position and he advocated for her to join the agency.” Gorka, who has been working as a senior adviser in the Department of Homeland Security since January 2017, also previously wrote for Breitbart.com. She is married to right-wing radio host and anti-Muslim commentator Sebastian Gorka.

BuzzFeed News reported in August 2017 that she has been “advising top officials at DHS on counterterror policies, drafting the department’s reports to Congress on terrorism recruitment, and trying to instill her anti-Islamist philosophy throughout the department.” HuffPost and BuzzFeed News also reported that she helped deny funding from the Countering Violent Extremism program to Life After Hate, a nonprofit that works to help “people leave the violent far-right.”

During her time as a right-wing commentator, Gorka repeatedly made anti-Muslim remarks. In one appearance roughly half a year before entering the Trump administration, she specifically took issue with the Muslim community in the United States, complaining that Muslims purportedly aren’t “working with us to prevent” terrorist acts.

Gorka appeared on the August 3, 2016, edition of Sandy Rios in the Morning, a radio program hosted by anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim bigot Sandy Rios. While speaking about ISIS, Rios wondered if "there is a way that Muslims who are friends to the West" can distinguish themselves, and said that the “onus is on” Muslims to say that they’re “not a Sharia-compliant Muslim.” 

Gorka answered: “That’s a burning question and I know that there’s a longstanding frustration that I share: Why more Muslims in this country haven’t stood up against this.” She then claimed that “about 110 ISIS supporters arrested or killed in this country since this all started in about March 2014, and a very small percentage were turned in by people who knew them. So that said that the Muslim community in this country really isn’t working with us to prevent this. And that should be disturbing to everyone.”

SANDY RIOS (HOST): Katie, don’t you think, understanding the Muslim world the way you do, and having worked with this for so long, don’t you think there is a way that Muslims who are friends to the West should be able to distinguish themselves? I think of Zudhi Jassar. I mean, can’t they -- couldn’t they, and it seems to me the onus is on them to say, “I don’t embrace that part. I don’t, I’m no -- I’m not a Sharia-compliant Muslim.” Whatever they’d have to say. Why can’t they distinguish themselves?

KATHARINE GORKA: Yeah, I know. That’s a burning question and I know that there’s a longstanding frustration that I share: Why more Muslims in this country haven’t stood up against this. And just the simple fact that we’ve had now, I think, about 110 ISIS supporters arrested or killed in this country since this all started in about March 2014, and a very small percentage were turned in by people who knew them. So that said that the Muslim community in this country really isn’t working with us to prevent this. And that should be disturbing to everyone.

But at the same time, it’s really interesting to watch, that there are very active debates going on within the Middle East, within the Muslim world. Many Muslims, I think, are really grappling with this and trying to figure out how can they make their religion live peacefully alongside Christians and non-Muslims. And I think there is a very sincere effort in that direction. They are not the loudest voice in the room right now, unfortunately, and honestly they don’t seem to be winning at the moment. But those voices are there and one can only hope that as more people live under the Caliphate, live under the Islamic State, and see the reality of that life, that they will reject it and they will take their religion in a different direction. I mean, one has to hold on to that hope, that possibility, or we would completely despair.  

Gorka made similar remarks on the May 19, 2016, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, stating that the Obama “administration has shifted resources away from training law enforcement and put resources instead toward, quote, countering violent extremism, which means more of, you know, experimental deradicalization programs as well as trying to work with local community leaders in the Muslim community. The problem is, these programs are experimental. They are not proven and, honestly, leaders in the Muslim community have not proven helpful so far in uncovering some of these cases.” 

President Donald Trump made a similar claim during the 2016 campaign. The Associated Press documented how the argument that the Muslim community doesn't cooperate with law enforcement is false: 

In his incendiary speech after the Orlando massacre, Trump reiterated his plan to ban all Muslim immigration and added that American mosques should be “respectfully” surveilled. He also claimed that “the Muslim community does not report people like this.”

“To claim there is no cooperation is defamatory to the Muslim-American community,” responds terrorism expert Professor Charles Kurzman. The FBI states that it has a “productive relationship” with the Muslim community and 20 percent of its tips come from its members.

The mother of 17-year-old Ali Amin, on the advice of her imam, turned in her own son, who is now serving 11 years for supporting ISIS. In 2014 a woman in Minneapolis showed police messages from her brother Abdi Nur, and he has been charged with providing material support for ISIS.

Not all of this cooperation has been reciprocated. Although police departments generally assure their Muslim communities that they will be profiling behavior not Muslims per se, one imam reported that, after attending a police meeting, he was later interrogated a local airport.

Right-wing media figures have frequently demanded that Muslims speak out against or atone for terrorist attacks -- a rigged and disingenuous game that ignores how Muslim groups and leaders do roundly condemn them. 

During that radio appearance, Gorka also claimed that “we have so many radical preachers operating in this country and honestly, they are working very hard to co-opt the Muslim youth of this country and to turn them away from our country, from the values that brought their parents here, and to bring them back into the fold of this radical Islam. And that should be very concerning.”

Update (6/20/19): This post was updated with remarks that Gorka made on Fox News in 2016.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Religion
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.