By Arun Kumar
Citing the good work by Muslims around the world including India, with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that many in the US have a distorted impression of Muslims.
A part of the challenge in fighting the scourge of terrorism, he said was to correct the distortion as “A lot of the bad, like terrorists who claim to speak for Islam, that’s absorbed by the general population. Not enough of the good.”
Obama was speaking on the final day Thursday of a three-day White House summit to counter violent extremism at the State Department attended by over 60 countries, including India. The Indian delegation is headed by R.N. Ravi, Chairman of India’s Joint Intelligence Committee.
“A painful truth that’s part of the challenge that brings us here today,” Obama said was that “in some of our countries, including the United States,” many people get “a very distorted impression” of the Muslims.
“So we have to remember these Muslim men and women -t he young Palestinian working to build understanding and trust with Israelis, but also trying to give voice to her people’s aspirations,” he said.
“Business leaders in India, with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. Entrepreneurs unleashing new innovations in places like Malaysia. Health workers fighting to save lives from polio and from Ebola in West Africa,” Obama continued.
“We speak different languages, born of different races and ethnic groups, belong to different religions,” he said.
“We are here today because we are united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.”
Outlining his vision to confront violent extremism, Obama called for remaining unwavering in fight against terrorist organizations, building democracy, breaking cycles of sectarian conflict and changing the perception of religious minorities and Muslims.
The President said the world has to confront the warped ideologies espoused by terrorists like Al Qaeda and Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Libya (ISIL), especially their attempt to use Islam to justify their violence.
“These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy,” he said. “And all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative.”
Muslim communities too have a responsibility to push back, he said, “not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations; that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam.”
“The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” Obama said. “And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it.”
“Groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL peddle the lie that some of our countries are hostile to Muslims,” he said calling “for more dialogues across countries and cultures.”
“But what’s most needed today, perhaps, are more dialogues within countries-not just across faiths, but also within faiths,” he said as “Terrorists traffic in lies and stereotypes about others-other religions, other ethnic groups.”
The summit concluded with the setting up of eight work-streams including one for “identifying and funding political and economic opportunities for communities that are vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment to violence.”
The participants will meet again in September in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly to share progress achieved and announce strategies and concrete programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the drivers of violent extremism.