Obama Administration Outlines Extremism Strategy

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | August 4, 2011 - Late yesterday, the White House released the Administration’s strategy to prevent violent extremism, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” The Administration has taken a clear stance that the US government will work to “prevent all types of extremism that leads to violence, regardless of who inspires it.” This broad definition is the correct approach, as extremism is not isolated to a single ideology or religion.

The principles behind the strategy seem balanced and in good faith. However, ADC seeks clarification on how these guidelines will be implemented, and further what oversight, if any, will be used to measure the progress of this strategy. ADC recognizes as a positive sign the Administration’s focus on ensuring that the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals are not jeopardized. As President Obama stated in his preface letter, “We will uphold the civil rights and civil liberties of every American.” The strategy also indicates that the US Government “must do everything in [its] power to protect the American people from violent extremism while protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of every American.” 

The strategy laid out by the Administration places an emphasis on a community-based approach. The language used states, “The best defenses against violent extremist ideologies are well-informed and equipped families, local communities, and local institutions. Their awareness of the threat and willingness to work with one another and government is part of our long history of community-based initiatives and partnerships dealing with a range of public safety challenges.” ADC believes that open lines of dialogue and communication between the community and the government are important and necessary, as long as the civil rights and civil liberties of the people are protected and the government does not infringe on these individual rights. 

The strategy also makes it clear that there are many forms of violent extremism and the threat of such extremism is not isolated to the Muslim or Arab American communities. Further, the strategy indicates that supporters of violent extremist groups -- such as neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups – “come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic and religious communities, and areas of the country…” 

The strategy laid out by the Obama Administration is in stark contrast to the damaging approach taken by Representative Peter King of New York. Earlier this year Rep. King, in his capacity as Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House, began hosting hearings focusing on “Islamic Radicalization.” The hearings, lacking of substance and direction, have provided the American public with no answers on how to combat all forms of radicalization. It is ADC’s hope that Rep. King adopts the strategy and focus on the broader issue of radicalization, rather than his current narrow and ill-guided approach. 

ADC will cont