Obama seeks Muslim help fighting extremism

Feb 19, 2015, 6:08 AM EST
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers closing remarks at the conclusion of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building February 18, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on American Muslim communities to do more to counter what he called "violent extremism," speaking at a three-day White House summit on the issue, reports Reuters.

Critics have accused the White House of shying away from tying extremism to the religion of Islam following shootings by Islamic militants in Paris and Copenhagen.

"Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam," Obama said, referring to the narrative from Islamic militants that Western nations are in a war against Islam.

Obama said young Muslims are particularly susceptible to extremist propaganda, which could incite them to join Islamic State in Syria or carry out attacks domestically. As many as 150 Americans have attempted to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic militants, U.S. intelligence officials said in congressional testimony last week.

Some Muslim leaders have pushed back against the administration's efforts to foster relationships with their communities. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson began visiting Muslim communities around the United States last June to educate them on behaviors to watch for in youth who may be radicalized.

Obama also wrote an editorial published by the Los Angeles Times. In the piece he said groups like al-Qaeda and [IS] "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," he wrote, adding "governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists". And in both his speech and the editorial, Mr Obama referenced the recent murders of three Muslim students in North Carolina.

"We do not yet know why three young people, who were Muslim Americans, were brutally killed in Chapel Hill, NC." "But we know that many Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid."