President Barack Obama in a speech discussing changes to American counterterrorism policies urged Americans to work closely with the Muslim American community to combat terrorism.
In Obama’s speech Thursday afternoon, he said the best way to fight violent extremism is through a combined effort of U.S. law enforcement with members of the Muslim American community to better identify signs of radicalization and deal with situations in which an individual is heading in the direction of violence.
For there to be an effective and beneficial partnership Americans need to consider Muslims to be an integral part of the American fabric, Obama said.
During Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University he said, “The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam. (Obama speech transcript here)”
Obama emphasized Muslims have repeatedly rejected terrorism and the ideology that Islam is in conflict with the U.S. and the West. Consequently, majority of these Muslims are often victims of terrorist attacks themselves, he said.
“Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause,” Obama said on terrorism. “Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.”
Obama has previously demonstrated a sympathetic attitude towards the rights of the Muslim community and their religious beliefs. After last year’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi—which Obama referenced multiple times in his speech today— he was accused of sympathizing with the attackers that killed Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three of his staff members. He released a statement condemning any efforts to offend the religious beliefs of others and apologized for the anti-Muslim film posted on YouTube that insulted Muslims across the globe and resulted in protests in over a dozen countries.
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Recently, in defense of Muslim Americans immediately after the Boston Marathon bombings, Obama urged Americans not to make hasty judgments about the attackers and “entire groups of people” before the facts were clearly presented.
And just earlier this week Obama urged Myanmar President to stop the ethnic and sectarian violence against minority Muslim sects and assure them their rights.
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In 2011, top national security aid Denis McDonough in an interfaith forum in Virginia said Obama wants to prevent terrorism with the help of Muslims by dispelling commonly held misconceptions about Muslim Americans.
“When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States,” he said, “Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution.”