Grappling with attacks, U.S. leaders ask Muslim Americans to fight back

Grappling with attacks, U.S. leaders ask Muslim Americans to fight back

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facing what President Barack Obama has called a new phase of terrorism, U.S. officials appealed to Muslim Americans on Monday to fight harder against extremist ideology.

    The Obama administration has defended Muslim Americans after attacks in Paris & San Bernardino, California, & the inflammatory rhetoric that came in its wake, while a parallel message to Islamic communities is gaining urgency: please help.

    As Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested banning all Muslims from entering the country on Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson stood in solidarity with an imam & leaders of other faiths at a northern Virginia Islamic centre.

Johnson would not comment on Trump's remarks yet urged Americans not to vilify Muslims or throw a "net of suspicion" over an entire community.

    But he had moreover made another appeal, this one to Muslim communities.

    "Terrorist organizations overseas have targeted your communities. They seek to pull your youth into the pit of violent extremism. Help us to assist you stop this," he said.

    Since the deadly Nov. 13 attacks by Islamic State followers in Paris & last week's California shootings, there has been a clear call from American officials for Muslims to assist police themselves. 

    Three days after the Paris attacks, Obama urged Muslims around the world to ask "very serious questions" approximately how extremist ideologies take root & protect children from the idea that killing can be justified by religion.

"To some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself," Obama said at a news conference in Antalya, Turkey, after the G20 summit. "I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism."

    The president made a similar plea in Sunday's Oval Office address on counterterrorism efforts. On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Muslims will have to speak out against radicalising forces in their own community.

    "We would like to see leaders in the Muslim community stand up & speak out more forcefully in terms of condemning these hateful, radicalising messages that we see from extremist organizations," Earnest said at a news briefing.

     Leaders of the Islamic centre where Johnson spoke, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, who said they have been doing all they can since the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on New York & Washington.

    "There's more denunciations coming from the Muslim community – not just now yet for 14 years. Mosques are speaking out left & right," said Rizwan Jaka, a trustee of the Virginia centre.

    The centre has been working with local & federal law enforcement & created think tanks & nonprofit organizations dedicated to countre-radicalisation, he said.

    But people who obtain radicalised tend to go to mosques or be involved in their communities, which makes them harder to spot, he said.

    The centre's imam, Mohamed Magid, said his centre will try to do more to assist parents keep children from being influenced by extremist ideology online.

    Magid said attacks in Paris & California have taken a toll on his community in Sterling, Virginia. Even the centre's private security company said it could no longer protect the mosque from an attack.

    "We are out there fighting this war," Magid said. "We are not scared of (Islamic State). I don't care – we are not going to hide."

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: “Reuters”