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Rudy Takala's Columns

White House Tells Reporters: Violent Extremists Also Come from United States

I wrote about this for CNSNews.

(CNSNews.com) -- Senior Obama administration officials said that the three-day “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) Summit being held at the White House this week will also focus on “violent extremists” from the U.S. in addition to Islamic terrorists abroad.

“ISIL is the near-term threat that we all are focused on, but we also recognize in the United States there has been violent extremists that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes,” an unnamed senior Obama administration official said during a background conference call with reporters on Monday.

Rather than focusing exclusively on Islamic terrorism, “the agenda for all three days is going to show a wide array of speakers and participants from all backgrounds who combat radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms,” reporters were told.

Noting the recent beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya and the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic terrorists, a reporter asked: “Isn’t there a more urgent action plan that’s needed against the terrorists in... ISIS, or ISIL, right now for these countries?”

“To be clear, countering violent extremism is only one element of all of the different tools that we’re bringing against terrorists, and specifically groups like ISIL,” a senior administration official replied.

A reporter questioned the White House’s use of the term “vulnerable community” to describe those communities it considers susceptible to violence. “There are those who say using that term stigmatizes Muslims,” the reporter said.

An administration official responded to the comment, saying, “I think one is that we want to be clear that the evidence doesn’t show that there’s any particular community, there’s no profile that we can point to say this person is from this community, is going to be radicalized to violence… And I think it would be wrong for us to say there is any one stereotype that’s going to fit here, and I think that we make a mistake as a government if we focus on stereotypes,” according to a transcript of the call.

Another reporter questioned whether the administration was trying to distract attention from acts of Islamic terrorism now taking place around the globe. “Might some critics think that you’re avoiding the world ‘Muslim’ as though extremists in the Islamic communities are the focus -- or are they not the focus? “ the reporter asked.

An administration official responded that it was up to each individual to decide what they viewed as a threat to them:

“I think we will see through the complexity of the discussion that violent extremism is a broader trend, and that everyone will be approaching it through their own lens of their immediate concerns.”

“Let’s be clear,” another senior administration official also responded.

“We recognize that violent extremism spans many decades and has taken many forms.  But we all agree that the individuals who perpetuated the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere are calling themselves Muslims and their warped interpretation of Islam is what motivated them to commit these acts. They’re not making any secret of that, and neither are we.

“But we are very, very clear that we do not believe that they are representing Islam. There is absolutely no justification for these attacks in any religion, and that’s the view of the vast majority of Muslims who have suffered huge casualties from the likes of folks like ISIL or al Qaeda. So you can call them what you want. We’re calling them terrorists….

“So we are not treating these people as part of a religion.  We’re treating them as terrorists.  We call them our enemies and we’ll be treating them as such.”

The conversation with reporters came hours before State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the best way to combat the Islamic State would be a jobs program: "We need ... to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, [such as] lack of opportunity for jobs," and that the United States should "help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people."

Vice President Joe Biden opened the summit Tuesday, participating in a round-table discussion with officials from Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, three cities that have existing community outreach programs aimed at preventing violence. More than 60 countries and members of the United Nations are also represented at the summit.

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