Local Communities Key Part Of Plan To Prevent Extremist Recruitment The White House summit on violent extremism is focused on what local communities can do to keep vulnerable people from turning to radical ideology. But the approach is not without its critics.
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Local Communities Key Part Of Plan To Prevent Extremist Recruitment

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Local Communities Key Part Of Plan To Prevent Extremist Recruitment

Local Communities Key Part Of Plan To Prevent Extremist Recruitment

Local Communities Key Part Of Plan To Prevent Extremist Recruitment

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/387302696/387302697" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The White House summit on violent extremism is focused on what local communities can do to keep vulnerable people from turning to radical ideology. But the approach is not without its critics.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Obama says the fight against violent extremist groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds, and that includes the hearts and minds of young people living in the U.S. The White House is hosting a summit this week on ways local communities can prevent young people from joining these groups. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The White House has been pressed repeatedly in recent days about the title of this summit. Why wasn't it called countering Islamic extremism? President Obama answered by saying that would simply play into the hands of extremist groups like ISIS who use a bogus narrative that the United States is at war with Islam as a recruiting tool.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie, nor should we granted these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They're terrorists.

HORSLEY: But even as he tried to highlight more tolerant voices within Islam, Obama acknowledged that job is made harder by voices that may not accept the violent tactics of groups like ISIS but do subscribe to the idea of clashing civilizations. Those beliefs exist, the president said, and in some communities they're widespread.

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OBAMA: And so it makes individuals, especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated, more ripe for radicalization.

HORSLEY: Obama argues in order to counter that radicalization in places like North Africa and the Middle East, the international community has to offer something better including economic and political reforms. Here at home, he says, Muslim communities need to do a better job of protecting young people against recruitment by terrorist groups. ISIS now packages its propaganda with slick videos and social media campaigns. The president warned local leaders they need to catch up.

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OBAMA: As wise and respected as you may be, your stuff is often boring compared to what they're doing.

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OBAMA: You're not connected, and as a consequence you are not connecting.

HORSLEY: The summit meeting was largely focused on three pilot outreach programs the government has been sponsoring in Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Researcher Steven Weine of the University of Illinois studied the LA project. He found while some Muslims embraced the effort as a way to make their community a part of the solution, others felt scapegoated and believed the campaign only reinforced negative stereotypes.

STEVEN WEINE: I think the central problem here is, how do you put a focus on a community without stigmatizing a community?

HORSLEY: Obama agreed that in order to play constructive role, the government has to be seen as a trusted partner. That trust has sometimes been jeopardized, he said, by overemphasizing the role of law enforcement or using outreach as a cover for government surveillance.

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OBAMA: So in our work, we have to make sure that abuses stop, are not repeated, that we do not stigmatize entire communities. Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith.

HORSLEY: Obama says the best way to counter extremist ideology is for America to stay true to its values as a diverse and tolerant society. What's more, he added, government can't do it all. Protecting young people from the grip of violent extremism also requires supportive family, friends and faith leaders. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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