Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

President Obama: 'No Religion Is Responsible for Terrorism'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

President Obama: 'No Religion Is Responsible for Terrorism'

Article excerpt

Anyone looking for a declaration of a hot war on the Islamic State out of President Obama's three-day summit on countering violent extremism will be deeply disappointed.

While the role that military intervention will play in reversing the territorial advances of the radical Islamist group got a few mentions - especially concerning short-term emergency actions - the White House summit more faithfully reflected the president's views on how violent extremism will ultimately be defeated.

Among the principles highlighted by the summit, which wrapped up Thursday with a gathering of representatives from more than 60 countries:

Governments can and must act to dry up radical groups' sources of funding and to block the recruitment highways carrying foreign fighters to the battle front. But long-term success will rely more on grassroots, community-generated intervention - particularly with susceptible youth - rather than on top-down prescriptions and edicts.

Defeating extremism will not result from demonizing one religion, but the goal will be advanced by protecting and strengthening the pluralism (particularly religious pluralism) and moderate Muslim voices the extremists abhor.

With youth unemployment in key Middle Eastern countries averaging about 30 percent (and with young Muslim immigrants in Western immigrant ghettos often experiencing equally bleak horizons) jobs and economic opportunity have to be expanded to dampen the allure of extremist ideologies.

Defeating the self-described Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL as it is also known, will not be a matter of a few years but will be "generational," as Mr. Obama said at the summit.

None of these points is new. Indeed most of them have been part of Obama's approach to Islamist radicalization - or what the administration prefers to call "violent extremism" to disassociate it from mainstream Islam - at least since August 2011.

That's when the administration unveiled a plan for "empowering local partners to prevent violent extremism." Since then the administration launched pilot programs in Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis, to encourage teachers, religious leaders, and local law enforcement to identify at-risk youths and counter the social-media messaging of racial groups.

Last September, Obama took many of the same ideas for defeating the Islamic State and other forms of terrorism-based radical Islam to the United Nations in his speech to the General Assembly. He also convened a Security Council session on stemming the flow of financing and foreign fighters into Islamic State.

And Obama plans to carry on in this vein, when again next September he will convene a follow-up meeting at the UN to assess individual countries' actions and where the battle with the Islamic State stands.

On Thursday, Obama underscored a need to counter the extremists' propaganda of violence and hatred with "bridges of communication" to encourage dialogue and respect among sectarian populations and across geographical divides. …

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