News and Commentary

Muslim Leader: ‘Can’t Accept’ Obama’s Call for Muslims to Help Root Out Extremism

In his Oval Office address on ISIS following the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, along with urging Americans to “reject discrimination” and embrace more gun control, President Obama called on Muslim Americans to help “root out” radical ideologies in their communities. But some in the Muslim community aren’t happy with the president’s request to combat Islamic extremism.

“We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam,” said Obama from the Oval Office on Sunday. “That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.”

Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour, who, as NPR notes, has “worked extensively” with the Black Lives Matter movement, said she “can’t accept” the president’s call for help from Muslims.

“We would never ask any other faith community to stand up and condemn acts of violence committed by people within their groups,” said Sarsour. “The fact that this is only directed at the Muslim community is something that I personally can’t accept.”

“We’re not law-enforcement officials,” said Muslim American Shahed Amanullah, an “entrepreneur with Silicon Valley connections” who has aided the government with extremism online. To expect Muslim Americans to combat extremism is not realistic he maintained, according to NPR.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is making a concerted push to enlist the help of the Muslim community. At a Mosque in the D.C. area on Monday, Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson pledged to “speak out against the discrimination, vilification and isolation that American Muslims face in these challenging times,” but also said he had an “ask” for Muslims.

“Now, I have an ask,” said Johnson. “It is an ask of the people in this room and all Muslims across this country: Terrorist organizations overseas have targeted your communities. They seek to pull your youth into the pit of violent extremism. Help us to help you stop this.”

Encouraging those in the room to “say something” if they “see someone turning toward violence,” Johnson said, “Encourage your youth that, if they see someone attracted to ISIL’s message, they should tell them there is a better way to change the world without violence.

“Most of all: do not become bitter. Do not lose faith. Have faith in this country,” urged Johnson.

Here is Sarsour’s speech at the 20th anniversary of the Million Muslim March:

Image (via AP): “Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, poses for photos at the association’s headquarters in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.”