US attacks on Muslims abroad is not a war on Islam - Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
“Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid,” President Barack Obama wrote in a new op-ed to tout the “countering violent extremism” summit in Washington this week that focuses almost exclusively on homegrown Islamic terrorism.

By and large, Obama’s Los Angeles Times op-ed detailed his administration’s efforts to quell “terrorism” abroad, as the president ticked off all of America’s Islamic extremist targets across the globe, including Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Pakistani Taliban, Al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram. He included smaller groups or actors that have recently attacked Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, and Copenhagen.

“In the face of this challenge, we must stand united internationally and here at home,” Obama wrote. “We know that military force alone cannot solve this problem. Nor can we simply take out terrorists who kill innocent civilians. We also have to confront the violent extremists — the propagandists, recruiters and enablers — who may not directly engage in terrorist acts themselves, but who radicalize, recruit and incite others to do so.”

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Last week, Obama called for Congress to renew US authority for the use of military force to target Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS and ISIL), the jihadist group that has come to control large areas of Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the latter nation’s civil war. Though the US has led airstrikes against IS in Iraq since August, Obama said his request – with no specific geographic limitations applied to US forces – was needed to show a united front against IS and "associated persons or forces," or those who fight on behalf or with the group, as well as "any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."

Obama said America’s pluralism will win the day, as he stressed that the US is not at war with Islam.

“Finally — with al Qaeda and ISIL peddling the lie that the United States is at war with Islam — all of us have a role to play by upholding the pluralistic values that define us as Americans,” he wrote in lauding the anti-extremism summit. “This week, we'll be joined by people of many faiths, including Muslim Americans who make extraordinary contributions to our country every day. It's a reminder that America is successful because we welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

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This week at the White House and the US State Department, the Obama administration is holding the “countering violent extremism” (CVE) summit in order to forge bonds between law enforcement and community leaders from areas at risk for homegrown terrorism. The meeting stems from a pilot program that the US Department of Justice began to “develop comprehensive local strategies” to combat extremism while sowing trust between law enforcement and Muslim communities in Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Domestically, the CVE summit comes at a volatile time in light of recent attacks and crimes targeting Muslims in America, most notably the murder last week of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Some American Muslim leaders say the summit is dangerous for Muslim communities in that it singles out Islam as a violent ideology.

“We’ve long said to the administration, to those in government, that directing the bulk of CVE resources to US Muslims undermines the safety of all of us and endangers US Muslims, because it sends the message our community is to be viewed with fear, suspicion and even hate,” Farhana Khera, executive director of civil rights law firm Muslim Advocates, told The Guardian.

The Justice Department’s “local strategies” program and the summit are also viewed with skepticism by American Muslims that have been the target of hateful attacks, the subject of invasive surveillance programs, and the focus of degrading insults from major politicians.

Many believe anti-Islam sentiment has been exacerbated by post-9/11 policing programs in major US cities, most high-profile of them being the New York City Police Department’s decade-plus Muslim surveillance operation that, by the NYPD’s own admission, failed to produce a single lead.

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Corey Saylor of the Council on American Islamic Relations told The Guardian that the distrust of government efforts will take time to heal, as “too often in the past you’ve had this hand reached out in friendship while the other is behind their back with handcuffs in it.”

In December, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced heightened racial profiling deterrents for law enforcement agencies, yet Muslim leaders protested because the rules made glaring exceptions for border patrol and “national security concerns.”

Those exceptions are "distressing, particularly because Latinos and religious minorities are disproportionately affected,” the ACLU's Washington legislative director Laura Murphy told Reuters at the time.

The Chapel Hill murders are being investigated as a possible hate crime. The suspect in the killing, Craig Stephen Hicks, was a neighbor of the trio -- Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 -- and their conflict is said to have stemmed from issues over parking outside their apartment complex. The victims’ family, however, disagreed with police, calling it a clear “hate crime” and an “execution.”

In recent days, a Muslim school in Rhode Island was vandalized with anti-Islamic graffiti and a fire erupted in a vacant building on the Quba Islamic Institute campus in southeast Houston. The Houston incident is being investigated as a possible accident by a homeless man seeking shelter.

In the last few years, specifically anti-Muslim crimes have made up about 13 or 14 percent of hate crimes considered to be committed with a religious bias. That amounts to nearly 100 anti-Islam hate crimes each year from 2011 to 2013, according to FBI data.

During his six years in office, the Obama administration has ordered bombings in at least seven predominantly-Muslim nations, not to mention its ongoing collaboration with terror-funding nations such as Saudi Arabia, and, of course, its undying allegiance to Israel and its subjugation of occupied Palestinians.

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, keeps a 'kill list' of alleged terror suspects in many of those same Muslim countries, most notably in Pakistan if the amount of unmanned lethal drone strikes there is any indication. Of the thousands killed in Pakistan by US drones, a very small percentage of them are believed to have been confirmed militants.