Congressman warns president not to go soft on extremists

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) cautioned President Obama not to go too soft on U.S. communities that aid terrorists, as the president implements his administration’s latest strategy to combat violent extremism.

The strategy, titled “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” was released Wednesday after more than a year of preparation.

The nine-page plan puts forward the administration’s goal to forge lasting partnerships with local governments, law enforcement and communities, which are frequently best equipped to identify radicalized individuals and the causes behind their extremism, according to the strategy.

“The federal government will often be ill-suited to intervene in the niches of society where radicalization to violence takes place, but it can foster partnerships to support communities through its connections to local government, law enforcement … and many others who can help prevent violent extremism,” the plan states.

But King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, while supporting Obama’s new strategy, warned the president about any need to engage in “politically correct feel-good encounters” to avoid treating the Muslim-American community with delicate hands.
The report stipulates that al Qaeda and its supporters are the largest looming threat to the U.S., but it recognizes that terrorists and violent extremists have come from many different ideologies and cultural backgrounds over the years.

“My concerns are with language in the report which suggests some equivalency of threats between [al Qaeda] and domestic extremists and also with the politically correct inference that legitimate criticism of certain radical organizations or elements of the Muslim-American community should be avoided,” King said in a statement.

“While I certainly support community involvement and initiatives, we must ensure that these do not become politically correct feel-good encounters which ignore the threats posed by dangerous individuals in the community.”

King has held three hearings on radicalization within the Muslim-American community since the beginning of this Congress. His first hearing received the most attention, as nearly 100 Democrats asked him either not hold it or to expand the scope to include other ideological extremist groups. King has said he considers the hearings successful because they promote open discussion about an issue that is often left undiscussed out of fear of offending Muslim-Americans.

Obama’s new strategy addresses a growing concern that misinformation about the government’s relationship with Muslim-Americans could invigorate recruitment for al Qaeda and its affiliates. 

“We must counter [al Qaeda]’s propaganda that the United States is somehow at war with Islam,” the strategy reads. “[Al Qaeda] and its supporters spread messages of hate, twist facts and distort religious principles to weave together a false narrative that Muslims must attack Americans everywhere because the Unites States is waging a global war against Islam.

“The federal government will work to … [dispel] myths and misperceptions that blame communities for the actions of a small number of violent extremists.”