President Barack Obama has ended a three-day summit on tackling violent extremism, by rejecting as “an ugly lie” the notion that the West is at war with Islam.
He also warned nations that failing to promote freedoms and address grievances only serves the interests of extremists.
“When dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit,” Obama told the summit in Washington.
“When peaceful democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorists’ propaganda that violence is the only answer available.”
Among delegates from over 60 countries was the French Interior Minister, his country still reeling from last month’s deadly terror attacks.
Like his host, Bernard Cazeneuve was eager to insist that extremism should not be confused with Islam.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any lumping together of all the world’s Muslims, and as far as we are concerned those in France, with the actions of small groups only inspired by hatred,” he said.
In a speech to the summit, Cazeneuve said that in recent years, the “profile of terrorists and potential terrorists has changed”.
He said many had “become radicalised over the Internet,” and others shifted from “crime to terrorism after serving time in prison or after contact with hardline Islamists.”
Just weeks after ISIL burned a Jordanian pilot alive, that country’s foreign minister Nasser Judeh stressed that extremism was not just a Western concern.
He stressed the need to put a Muslim-Arab face on the fight against extremists.
“We in the region and particularly in Jordan, we will lead and we will assume our responsibility,” Judeh said.
Our correspondent in Washington, Stefan Grobe, said:
“There seems to be a newly-found sense of urgency among governments to fight violent extremism as a global scourge. The recent atrocities by ISIL and its supporters have certainly helped forging that determination. As Jordan’s foreign minister has put it: ‘Every one of us is a target.’”
President Obama also announced that the US would join the United Arab Emirates to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and community leaders to counter ‘terrorist propaganda,’ and urged others to join the effort.