- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2015

Even with Islamic State terrorists committing a new atrocity by beheading Christians in Libya, President Obama hopes to avoid blaming radical Muslims for terrorism as he hosts a summit beginning Tuesday in Washington to counter generic “violent extremism.”

Mr. Obama will meet with community leaders from the U.S. and foreign ministers from 60 nations during the three-day summit aimed at discouraging recruitment of young terrorists. And administration aides took pains Monday to dodge the words “Muslim” and “Islam” in their characterizations of terrorists’ motivations.

“You can call them what you want,” a senior administration official told reporters. “We’re calling them ‘terrorists.’ We are not treating these people as part of a religion.”

Mr. Obama hopes to appeal to moderate Muslims to dissuade “vulnerable” people in their communities from joining terrorist groups such as the Islamic State or committing “lone wolf” attacks in the U.S. He told CNN earlier this month that “we do ourselves a disservice in this fight if we are not taking into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this ideology.”

Toward that end, the president’s summit is aimed at long-term initiatives such as youth job training, “rehabilitation” of extremists and reaching out to certain communities so that leaders “feel comfortable working with authorities,” a senior administration official said.

But even as the administration is bending over backwards not to antagonize American Muslims, the largest Islamic advocacy group in the U.S. plans to hold a news conference Tuesday to blast the summit as an insult to Muslims. Leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the administration’s pilot program of countering violent extremism is “stigmatizing and ineffective.”

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR in Minnesota, objected to the fledgling program in Minneapolis, saying the departments of Justice and Homeland Security should not be linked to efforts to offer grants to community organizations for social services to help youths.

“Constitutional rights are the cornerstone of our society and must not be suspended or limited for any Americans,” Mr. Hussein said. “Allowing the federal criminal prosecutor and law enforcement agencies to engage in social services and organize mentorship and after-school programs only in the Muslim community is unprecedented. It blurs the line between community outreach and intelligence gathering.”

James Jay Carafano, director of foreign policy studies at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, said the administration’s initiative is more of a public relations effort than an effective answer to global terrorism.

“The most important thing about violent extremism is demonstrating it’s not successful,” Mr. Carafano said. “That part of the world honors power. If you’re a powerful person, you’re respected. When [the Islamic State] is going out beheading people and getting away with it, that’s a recruiting deal. If you want to destroy this ISIS brand, you have to kick their butt out of Iraq, put a humiliating defeat on them. That’s what’s going to tamper down recruiting. It’s a power thing. Crushing them is really the only solution.”

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