Obama Adviser Puts al Qaeda in Perspective: U.S. and Europe Have ‘Long, Painful History of Violent Extremism'

By Penny Starr | October 29, 2012 | 1:02 PM EDT

Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan briefs reporters at the White House on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – Speaking Friday at the Institute of Institutional and European Affairs in Dublin, Ireland, John Brennan, President Obama's assistant national security adviser for homeland security and counter-terrorism put al Qaeda's terrorism in perspective by comparing it to what he called the “long and painful history of violent extremism” in the United States and Europe.

"Sadly, the threat of violent extremism did not start—and will not end—with al-Qa‘ida,” Brennan said.  “On both sides of the Atlantic, we have a long, painful history of violent extremism, from violent anarchists to violent white supremacists to neo-Nazis.

“This summer, we saw a white supremacist in Wisconsin kill six worshippers and wound four others at a Sikh temple,” Brennan said. “Last year in Norway, we saw Anders Breivik—steeped in a racist and xenophobic ideology—murder 77 innocent men, women and children in a tragedy that truly shocked the world."

Brennan, who was director for the National Counterterrorism Center in the George W. Bush administration, said that the challenge the U.S. and Europe faces is “to meet the full range of violent extremism threats in our communities regardless of ideology.”

He then warned that the West should not “stigmatize” Muslims who are “fellow citizens.”

"The bottom line—on both sides of the Atlantic—is that we have to work with communities rather than stigmatize them,” Brennan said. “That is especially true when it comes to our fellow citizens who are Muslim.

“In word and deed, we need to show Muslim communities that they are just as much a part of our countries as people of any other faith,” Brennan said. “This is a message of inclusion and opportunity that President Obama has conveyed on many, many occasions.

“As he has said, the United States is not and never will be at war against Islam; our nation is strengthened by all its citizens, including those who are Muslim,” Brennan said. “We are at war against al-Qa’ida—a band of thugs who offer nothing but death and destruction.

“And when it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in our countries, Muslim communities are part of the solution,” Brennan said.

Violent extremism was one of what Brennan said are the four threats facing the West. Another is Lebanese Hizballah, which Brennan described as “one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations.”

The others are “kidnapping for ransom” by “criminals and terrorists around the world” and modern day piracy.