Former FBI Agent Ali Soufan, the CEO of the Soufan Group, a global intelligence and security consultancy, said in an October 14, 2019 interview on Lusail TV (Qatar) that based on his experience working in counter-terrorism for the FBI, people do not join terrorist organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or white extremist or neo-Nazi groups because they believe in the ideology or religious beliefs of the organization. He said that people join these organizations for economic, political, social, or cultural reasons and that the ideology follows. Explaining that people who have a strong belief in their faith cannot be taken advantage of and led to terrorism, Soufan said that there is an entire industry in the West that sees Islam as being part of the driving forces of terrorism. He said that this is not true and emphasized that most people, politicians, and think tanks in the U.S. draw a distinction between Islam and terrorism.
Ali Soufan: When I was in the FBI, I worked in counter-terrorism and I spoke with many people. Let me tell you, none of these people joined [extremist] organizations out of belief. They joined them for economic, political, and social considerations and the ideology came later. If a person is a believer and has strong belief to begin with, then nobody can take advantage of this belief and lead him [to terrorism]. So terrorism has nothing to do with ideology. It has nothing to do with religion or ideas. You can see this even with the white extremists, the neo-Nazis – there are political issues, economic issues, social issues, cultural issues… These are the issues that cause them to adopt that ideology. It’s the same as what we have seen with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and others. There are things that are deeply-rooted in our Arab and Islamic world, or even in Europe among people who came from Africa and North Africa and who do not feel themselves to be citizens of Belgium or France… They have always felt isolated because of their religion and ethnicity.
Interviewer: Are the people in Europe and the U.S. who use the word “terrorism” and apply it to the Islamic religion?
Ali Soufan: Absolutely.
Interviewer: Do they take advantage of this in order to achieve political goals?
Ali Soufan: This is an entire industry in and of itself. It includes funds, manpower, and research centers. They always focus on Islam being part of terrorism. Even Trump said, during his election campaign, and he didn’t want more Muslims to come to America. That’s the “Muslim ban.” This is an indivisible part of the industry of hatred towards the Muslims and the Muslim world. But this is not true. A the same time, the vast majority of people and politicians in America, and even most of the think tanks – the respected ones, not the… They draw a significant distinction between Islam and terrorism.