By Kristina Fried
By Kristina Fried
Rabat – In his speech at the three-day conference held on Wednesday to combat extremism, Obama stated that “the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie, and all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it.”
He added that leaders of Muslim nations need to do their part by doing “more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam.”
Obama’s statements come in the wake of severe tension following several attacks by extremists who call themselves Muslim, and he is very clear on wanting to find a balance between preventing such attacks and accepting Muslim Americans into the community. He said he knows “that many Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid” given the current tension, according to an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
He also clarified that extremist organizations such as ISIS and al Qaeda should not be conflated with Islam. “We are not at war with Islam,” he said at the conference, “we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” He went further to explain that what these organizations want is to be acknowledged as religious, and giving them that acknowledgement by associating them with Islam will only fuel the fire.
“They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam,” he said. “We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists.”
The White House corroborated Obama’s statements by unveiling a new program at the conference, in which local law enforcement and members of Muslim American communities will work together to peacefully combat violent extremism. So far, the program is slated to take place in Boston, Los Angeles and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.
Some civil rights organizations are opposed to this program, stating that it could lead to an even more alienated Muslim American community. “From conceptualization to implementation, the CVE strategy raises significant constitutional and privacy concerns. It is not based on empirical evidence of effectiveness. It threatens to do more harm than good,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, to CNN.
However, the law enforcement officers involved in the program see it as a positive development. Michael Downing, Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department’s bureau of counterterrorism and special operations, explained that “this has nothing to do with intelligence, it has nothing to do with surveillance, this is about developing healthier, resilient communities,” according to CNN.