Top Trump aide Sebastian Gorka refuses to say Islam is a religion

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Sebastian Gorka, a deputy adviser specializing in terrorism and security issues to President Donald Trump, declined to comment on whether he considers Islam to be a religion on Wednesday.

Gorka, who dodged a basic question on whether Islam qualifies as a religion in a prior interview with NPR, repeated the maneuver in another NPR interview.

"This is not a theological seminary," Gorka said. "This is the White House, and we're not going to get into theological debates."

"If the president has a certain attitude to a certain religion that's something you can ask him, but we're talking about national security and the totalitarian ideologies that drive the groups that threaten America," he added.

Islam is near-universally recognized as a religion outside of a small number of right-wing extremists which believe it is instead a militant political creed bent on worldwide domination.

Gorka has spoken in sweeping terms about Islam before, and his wife and frequent intellectual collaborator Katharine Gorka at one point claimed "Islam's leading ideologues and spokespersons have openly and repeatedly declared ideological war on America."

Gorka found himself in the midst of controversy when photos of him wearing the badge of a Hungarian order associated with World War II-era Nazi collaborators circulated online earlier this year. A subsequent report in Forward showed while Gorka was living in Hungary, he was associated with far-right political party Jobbik and published articles in a newspaper known for racist and anti-Semitic content.

The Lawyers, Guns & Money blog has emerged as a prominent Gorka critic, attacking his qualifications and Ph.D dissertation in a series of posts in February. That month, Newsweek reported, Gorka also placed an angry call to terrorism expert Michael S. Smith II after Smith mocked Gorka's intellectual bona fides on Twitter.

Still, Gorka struck a less harsh tone at another point in the NPR interview, Politico reported, saying the idea the U.S. is at war with the entire Islamic faith is "asinine" and instead saying he thinks the faith is in the middle of a civil war.