US Islamic Groups See WH Summit on Violent Extremism As Unfairly Focusing on Muslims

Patrick Goodenough | February 16, 2015 | 7:31pm EST
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President Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, speaks about ISIS at the White House on Feb. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

( – Ahead of a three-day White House summit on “countering violent extremism,” some U.S. Islamic groups are expressing concern about the administration’s “CVE” initiative, claiming that it unfairly focuses on Muslims and is tantamount to racial profiling.

They have done so despite the administration’s evident efforts to avoid using words like “Islamic” or “Islamist” when referring to terrorism carried out by people and groups claiming to be motivated by that religion.

“Despite overwhelming evidence that American Muslims are committed to the national good, the U.S. government still frames its relationship with American Muslims through a securitized lens,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a brief. “Such an approach stigmatizes the whole community.”

“To be effective, any conversation related to CVE should include a discussion of overbroad surveillance by the NSA and FBI, use of informants in places of worship and other community gathering places without evidence of wrongdoing, and other problematic law enforcement tactics,” CAIR said.

“This discussion must also include America’s foreign policy,” it added.

Aspects of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, including support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have long been cited by terrorists in a bid to justify their acts. In its brief, CAIR pointed to remarks by the young Pakistani Nobel Peace prize winner, Malala Yusufzai, to the effect that U.S. “drone attacks are fuelling terrorism.”

CAIR, a sometimes controversial advocacy group, describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.”

President Obama hosts an Iftar dinner, celebrating Ramadan, in the State Dining Room at the White House on July 14, 2014. Some American Muslim groups are troubled by the administration’s “countering violent extremism” initiative. (White House photo/Amanda Lucidon)

Another lobby group, Muslim Advocates, also voiced concern about the CVE effort, saying it amounts to racial and religious profiling, and that the government has a “track record of treating extremist violence as though it were an exclusively Muslim problem.”

The group claimed that the administration’s approach focuses on Muslims and ignores “the roughly 95% of other threats of extremist violence.” It cites a 10 year-old FBI report that lists incidents of domestic terror violence between 1980 and 2005, the majority of which were blamed on leftist or ecological groups, while only “some 6% are attributable to Muslims.”

Muslim Advocates’ interpretation of the report could be construed as misleading: It omits the fact that some 93 percent of fatalities in the attacks listed from 1980-2005 were victims of Islamic terrorism, a number that would rise to 99 percent if not for the 1995 Oklahoma bombing.

Further, the FBI report stops in 2005, and so does not cover attacks like Nidal Malik Hasan’s killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing – or numerous foiled Islamic terror attacks, including those at Times Square in 2010, or on a Detroit-bound aircraft on Christmas Day 2009.

Concerns about Americans being radicalized online by proselytizing Islamic terrorist groups or clerics, or joining jihads abroad and then posing a threat on their return, are a relatively recent development – in the former instance arising roughly around the time Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki began his online propaganda campaign for al-Qaeda in 2007; and in the latter instance arising largely out of the Syrian civil war and its spillover.

During this week’s “CVE” event, President Obama will address a meeting at the White House on Wednesday looking at ways U.S. city administrations are dealing with the challenge, focusing on Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The president will also address a gathering at the State Department Thursday of officials from dozens of countries “to develop an action agenda against violent extremism.”

Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice will also take part in the various programs.

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