Kerry: Extremism Not Linked to Islam; Factors Include ‘Palestine,’ Deprivation, Climate Change

By Patrick Goodenough | October 17, 2014 | 4:13 AM EDT

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a reception in honor of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, at the State Department on Thursday, October 16, 2014. (Screengrab: State Department)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday night rejected any link between Islam and extremism practiced by the likes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh), pointing instead to factors such as poverty among youthful Mideast populations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and climate change.

Addressing a reception at the State Department in honor of the recent Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, Kerry told an audience of Muslim community representatives, diplomats and others that the world was facing “a very complex time, and there are many currents that are loose out there that have brought us to this moment.”

“The extremism that we see, the radical exploitation of religion which is translated into violence, has no basis in any of the real religions,” he said. “There’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for, or is doing to people.”

The situation was “complicated, and for other reasons,” Kerry said. “We’re living at a point in time where there are just more young people demanding what they see the rest of the world having than at any time in modern history.”

He said with large youthful populations in some countries in the Middle East, South-Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, “you are going to have a governance problem unless your governance is really addressing the demands and needs of that part of the population.”

Kerry said extremist violence was just a symptom of underlying causes that needed to be addressed. He spoke in that context of a need for a partnership – to pursue peace, shared prosperity and the ability to get an education and a job, as well as “sustainability of the planet itself.”

“And that brings us to something like climate change, which is profoundly having an impact in various parts of the world, where droughts are occurring not at a 100-year level but at a 500-year level in places that they haven’t occurred, floods of massive proportions, diminishment of water for crops and agriculture at a time where we need to be talking about sustainable food.”

“In many places we see the desert increasingly creeping into East Africa,” he said. “We’re seeing herders and farmers pushed into deadly conflict as a result. We’re seeing the Himalayan glaciers receding, which will affect the water that is critical to rice and to other agriculture on both sides of the Himalayas. These are our challenges.”

‘Humiliation and denial’

Kerry also linked the threat of ISIS-type extremism to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

“As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, the truth is we – there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said, “because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt – and I see a lot of heads nodding – they had to respond to.”

“And people need to understand the connection of that,” Kerry added. “It has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity …”

After the failure of his nine-month effort to nudge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to a negotiated settlement, and Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza over the summer, Kerry has recently begun talking with renewed urgency about the need for yet another peace push.

While animosity towards Israel may be shared by many of the jihadists that have joined ISIS, the narrative of humiliated and dispossessed Palestinians plays little part in the propaganda of the al-Qaeda-inspired group, which focuses largely on the restoration of the caliphate and its hatred for Christians, Jews, Shi’ites and other Muslims who don’t embrace its radical views.

The 56-page latest edition of its publication, Dabiq, does not refer once to the plight of the Palestinians, although there are numerous hostile references to Jews, “Crusaders” and others.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow