I would like to share five comments on President Obama’s speech before the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.
1. President Obama defines “violent extremism” in this manner:
By “violent extremism,” we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people. We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists –the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence. We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist, so there’s no way to predict who will become radicalized. Around the world, and here in the United States, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths — which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths. It’s not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time.
What is the common denominator between the ideologies and infrastructure? What is the common denominator in the attacks in Ottawa, Paris, Copenhagen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Libya and Jordan? Whether the victims are Muslims or non-Muslims, it is all rooted in Islam. Non-Muslims are capable of committing terrorism, but they don’t constitute a global movement.
2. Obama speaks of al Qaeda and ISIS’s lack of legitimacy:
Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.” And they propagate the notion that America — and the West, generally — is at war with Islam. That’s how they recruit. That’s how they try to radicalize young people. 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’re terrorists. (Applause.) And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam. (Applause.)
If ISIS has perverted Islam and its leaders are not legitimate religious leaders then why has the editor of The Jakarta Post been tried for blasphemy for publishing an anti-ISIS cartoon? He could face five years in prison. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. If a journalist can be imprisoned the world’s largest Muslim country for blaspheming ISIS then how can Obama claim that ISIS has perverted Islam?
3. Obama also speaks about Muslim grievances:
Conversely, there are terrorists who’ve come from extraordinarily wealthy backgrounds, like Osama bin Laden. What’s true, though, is that when millions of people — especially youth — are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow. Where young people have no education, they are more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and radical ideas, because it’s not tested against anything else, they’ve got nothing to weigh. And we’ve seen this across the Middle East and North Africa.
It is striking to see Obama use the word conspiracy especially in light of the fact that one of the summit’s participants called Israel a “suspect” in the 9/11 attacks. Salam al-Marayati is no fringe Muslim. He is the founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. If this kind of thinking is prevalent among “mainstream” and “moderate” Muslims then have a far deeper problem than violent extremists? To suggest that Israel was involved in the 9/11 attacks is not only anti-Semitic, but an attempt to absolve al Qaeda of responsibility. If Obama does not want to legitimize ISIS then how does it help to legitimize Muslim leaders who deny culpability for acts of Islmaic terrorism and spout anti-Semitic conspiracy theories?
4. Obama spoke of the importance of having family members counter radicalization. Well, I recall that the father of Umar Farouk Abumutallab (a.k.a. The Underwear Bomber or The Christmas Day Bomber) warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria about his son and nothing was done about it. His visa wasn’t suspended or was he put on a no-fly list. The only reason we didn’t have a terrorist attack aboard Northwest Flight 253 was because of its vigilant passengers, not our government. I don’t doubt that many Muslims would be willing to speak up and say a family member was prepared to do harm. I just don’t have the confidence that the Obama Administration would act on that information.
5. Our prisons are a hotbed of Muslim radicalization yet Obama made no mention of it in his remarks. Any strategy undertaken to combat Islamic radicalism must put our prisons at its core. Again, I have no more confidence the Obama Administration will act on that than they did when the Underwear Bomber’s father pleaded with them to stop his son.
In summation, Obama fiddles while ISIS burns.