Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 7, 2009

America echoes Ankara

Filed under: Immigration,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 7, 2009

President Obama’s Monday speech in Ankara had several audiences and as many purposes.  In the United States it will be heard and read with particular care by the Muslim American community.

“So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam,” has been the line most quoted from the speech. The President continued, “In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.”

The United States, unlike Europe and elsewhere, has not yet suffered from homegrown Islamist terrorism.  Fundamental to our defense-in-depth has been effective economic, political, and cultural integration of Islamic residents.  While in Europe many Muslims are treated as second-class citizens or worse, the American Muslim community overall is better educated and more affluent than average. 

The President explained, “We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans.”

Muslims make up less than  two percent –  2.35 million to 3.5 million – of the US population (estimates differ).  A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of Muslim Americans found them to be “largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”  A Washington Post-ABC News survey completed on March 29 found, however, that 45 percent of Americans self-assess they “do not have a good basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Islam” and 48 percent admit to having “unfavorable” views of Islam.

There is also concern that greater difficulty integrating some recent Somali immigrants may make that Muslim community more vulnerable to radicalization.

In the substantive close of his address to Turkish parliamentarians the President offered, “There’s an old Turkish proverb: ‘You cannot put out fire with flames.’  America knows this. Turkey knows this. There’s some who must be met by force, they will not compromise. But force alone cannot solve our problems, and it is no alternative to extremism. The future must belong to those who create, not those who destroy. That is the future we must work for, and we must work for it together.”  

In a joint statement the American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections said, “The American Muslim community believes President Obama’s new policy of dialogue and mutual respect will serve our nation and the cause of world peace and stability much better than past policies of unilateralism and confrontation.” 

But the full AMT statement gives even more attention to  “the deteriorating relations between the FBI and American Muslims, the dissemination of inaccurate and agenda-driven information by DHS-recognized fusion centers, and Muslims’ concerns about Justice Department guidelines implemented in December 2008 that allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening an FBI probe.”

Today the President will conclude his visit to Turkey meeting with religious leaders and students.

Related Links:

Obama’s entreaty to Islam surprises Muslims from the San Francisco Chronicle

LI Muslims praise Obama’s speech, but want action from Newsday

The Muslim next door from Newsweek

America at a Crossroads: America’s Muslims from the Public Broadcasting System

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 7, 2009 @ 9:02 am

Rhetoric can be crucial in many ways. I guess the bottom line is the US leadership of both parties truly believes that the US does NOT choose its enemies but they choose US. Reading over 100 books since 9/11 on the Islamic world and its culture and history from Bernard Lewis to Robert Fiske I do firmly believe that Islam is a Western Religion and belief system that has helped shape the West even more than it shaped Christendom (Is there such a term?) And reading books like Robert Kaplan’s “The Arabists” indicates to me how the revolutionary creation of Israel in 1948 created in part the great divide that now looms over the Western World. When asked by one of my son’s why we were so supportive of Israel I stated one word “Guilt”. My problem however is not with Israel but with all three of the great desert religions–Chrisitanity, Judism, and Islam. They all have been spread and developed through violence. As the son of a Quaker mother and Presbyterian father influenced towards religion as non-violent. Until all three religions announce that they have renounced violence and respect their peacemakers more than their warriors the ending of the western world will probably be during this century and caused by these religions. The great gift of seperation of Church and State–largely to protect the government from religion not the reverse–means that a secular United States thrived until the Third of Fourth Great Awakening occurred after the start of the Atomic ERA. Okay so let’s help the UN to fashion a NO FIRST USE of NUKES policy for the world and then as OBAMA clearly hopes a move to ending possession of nuclear weapons and see how that plays out. By the way Turkey has the complete capability for nuclear armed ballistic missiles but has wisely chosen not to go in that direction. Does Israel fear Turkey? No! Why they are essentially a secular state even though ATTATURK hung Imams from lampposts in order to establish that point. The real crisis in the west to me is nuclear weapons and religion. Let’s find a cure.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 8, 2009 @ 2:45 am

To support your argument for rejecting violence in the name of religion I hope you have read Leo Tolsoy’s “The Kingdom of God is Within You.” I wonder, though, if religiously justified violence is just another symptom of self-assertion when afraid. Finding a cure for fear (or self-assertion?) might better target the underlying pathology.

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