President Barack Obama said on Feb. 18 that the fight to combat violent extremism starts with empowering local communities.
In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, Obama spoke about this week's upcoming global summit where civil society groups and community leaders from more than 60 nations will meet in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to counter violent extremism both abroad and at home.
The president cited recent incidents such as the Feb. 10 shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the April 2014 killing of three people at a Kansas Jewish Center, and the August 2012 incident where a gunman killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Obama called for solidarity and understanding with the Muslim community.
“We do not yet know why three young people, who were Muslim Americans, were brutally killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina,” Obama wrote. “But we know that many Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid. Americans of all faiths and backgrounds must continue to stand united with a community in mourning and insist that no one should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”
Obama added that military force alone will not solve the problem. The president said action must be taken to confront propagandists, recruiters and enablers who radicalize and incite others to engage in terrorist acts. He criticized terror groups al-Qaida and Islamic State group, saying they misrepresent the Muslim community and exploit people’s anger.
The president wrote:
“Groups like al-Qaida and ISIL (Islamic State) promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims.
“The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam. We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam. We can help Muslim entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop social media tools to counter extremist narratives on the Internet.
“More broadly, groups like al-Qaida and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives.
“The world has to offer today’s youth something better.”
Obama expressed both eagerness and readiness for the upcoming global summit.
“Our campaign to prevent people around the world from being radicalized to violence is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds,” he wrote. “With this week’s summit, we’ll show once more that — unlike terrorists who only offer misery and death — it is our free societies and diverse communities that offer the true path to opportunity, justice and dignity.”