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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The gang that couldn't shoot straight

Yes, he tweeted that, and yes, President Hussein Obama went to the State Department on Thursday to talk about 'violent extremism.' And he actually mentioned Islam.
In Iraq and Syria, our coalition of some 60 nations, including Arab nations, will not relent in our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  And as a result of a separate ministerial here yesterday, many of our governments will be deepening our cooperation against foreign terrorist fighters by sharing more information and making it harder for fighters to travel to and from Syria and Iraq. 
Related to this, and as I said at the United Nations last fall, nations need to break the cycles of conflict -- especially sectarian conflict -- that have become magnets for violent extremism.  In Syria, Assad’s war against his own people and deliberate stoking of sectarian tensions helped to fuel the rise of ISIL.  And in Iraq, with the failure of the previous government to govern in an inclusive manner, it helped to pave the way for ISIL’s gains there. 
The Syrian civil war will only end when there is an inclusive political transition and a government that serves Syrians of all ethnicities and religions.  And across the region, the terror campaigns between Sunnis and Shia will only end when major powers address their differences through dialogue, and not through proxy wars.  So countering violent extremism begins with political, civic and religious leaders rejecting sectarian strife. 
Second, we have to confront the warped ideologies espoused by terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL, especially their attempt to use Islam to justify their violence.  I discussed this at length yesterday.  These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy.  And all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative.
At the same time, we must acknowledge that groups like al Qaeda and ISIL are deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, particularly Muslim youth.  And Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back, not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations; that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam or seek to suppress Muslims; or that we are the cause of every ill in the Middle East. 
That narrative sometimes extends far beyond terrorist organizations.  That narrative becomes the foundation upon which terrorists build their ideology and by which they try to justify their violence.  And that hurts all of us, including Islam, and especially Muslims, who are the ones most likely to be killed.
But Obama doesn't get that this is a threat to the West. He thinks it's only a threat to Muslims. He's totally unwilling to act against it.  And ignoring the fact that it has been shown time and time again that terrorists come from all economic classes, he's trying to convince us that if only they could take constant luxury vacations like he and Mooch do, these Muslims wouldn't be terrorists anymore.
Third, we must address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances.  As I said yesterday, poverty alone does not cause a person to become a terrorist, any more than poverty alone causes someone to become a criminal.  There are millions, billions of people who are poor and are law-abiding and peaceful and tolerant, and are trying to advance their lives and the opportunities for their families. 
But when people -- especially young people -- feel entirely trapped in impoverished communities, where there is no order and no path for advancement, where there are no educational opportunities, where there are no ways to support families, and no escape from injustice and the humiliations of corruption -- that feeds instability and disorder, and makes those communities ripe for extremist recruitment.  And we have seen that across the Middle East and we've seen it across North Africa.  So if we’re serious about countering violent extremism, we have to get serious about confronting these economic grievances.
It's therefore not surprising to hear Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson come out with a statement like this
We in the administration and the government should give voice to the plight of Muslims living in this country and the discrimination that they face. And so I personally have committed to speak out about the situation that very often people in the Muslim community in this country face. The fact that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and the Islamic faith is one about peace and brotherhood.
And you wonder why Obama wants to let Iran have nuclear weapons? What could go wrong?

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