Some American Muslims Irritated By Obama's Call For Them To 'Root Out' Extremism American Muslims feel unfairly maligned, singled out and asked to do more than others when it comes to terrorism.
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Some American Muslims Irritated By Obama's Call For Them To 'Root Out' Extremism

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Some American Muslims Irritated By Obama's Call For Them To 'Root Out' Extremism

Some American Muslims Irritated By Obama's Call For Them To 'Root Out' Extremism

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Donald Trump seized a lot of attention yesterday when he proposed that Muslims be banned from entering the United states. President Obama has taken a very different approach. In a speech Sunday night, the president spoke of Muslims as allies. He said he wants them to help root out extremist ideology. NPR's Tom Gjelten asked some American Muslims what they think.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour works with the Black Lives Matter movement and other minority groups. She's firmly committed to interfaith cooperation. But she was a bit offended by President Obama's message to Muslims.

LINDA SARSOUR: We would never ask any other faith community to stand up and condemn acts of violence committed by people within their groups. And the fact that this is only directed at the Muslim community is something that I personally can't accept.

GJELTEN: In his Sunday night message, the president did say Muslim Americans should not be treated differently. But administration officials are not retreating from their request that Muslims assist in counterterrorism efforts. Speaking at a mosque outside Washington yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he'll keep defending American Muslims from discrimination. But then he asked for something in return.

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JEH JOHNSON: It is an ask of the people in this room and all Muslims across this country.

GJELTEN: Terrorist groups, he said, are seeking to pull your youth into the pit of violent extremism.

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JOHNSON: Help us to help you stop this.

GJELTEN: Muslim leaders have heard this before. Shahed Amanullah, a Muslim American entrepreneur with Silicon Valley connections, has worked with the U.S. government on combating online extremism. But he says it's unrealistic to expect Muslims to deal with violent people in their midst.

SHAHED AMANULLAH: We're not law enforcement officials. We're community members and Americans like everybody else. And we should have the same relationship with law enforcement that anybody else does, which is if we see something, we say something. To expect us to kind of be on the frontlines without having a capacity or support, it's just not - it wouldn't be productive with any community.

GJELTEN: Amanullah says the key to combating extremist ideology is for Muslims to become more socially and culturally integrated. We're still trying to find our footing, he says, in terms of what it means to be Muslim American. Ahmed Hahsy is an immigrant from Afghanistan now living in Philadelphia. He agrees it's his duty to confront extremism when he sees it, but not because he's a Muslim.

AHMED HAHSY: I've been living in this country for 25 years. You're first American, then Afghan. This is our duty, to protect this country.

GJELTEN: Among the Muslim community leaders who have been asked before to cooperate with law enforcement is Bassam Issa. He's president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga in Tennessee. That's where a Muslim shot and killed four Marines and a sailor at two military facilities.

BASSAM ISSA: When that happened, we contacted each other more often. And we've been working together very closely. They know anything they want from us, they've always gotten. And we will always be there for them.

GJELTEN: The shooting in Chattanooga was a turning point for the local Muslim community there, ushering in closer relations with the police. The San Bernardino shootings may be something of a game changer as well. Among those discussing extremism yesterday with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was Bob Marro, a local Muslim leader.

BOB MARRO: As the community, we can see these people close up. And if you're seeing something which is looking a little bit out of character, maybe the time has now come for somebody to say something to somebody else.

GJELTEN: Bob Marro, he chairs the Government Relations Committee at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society outside Washington. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Hahsy’s first name. It is Hamad.]

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