Eighteen Religious and Civil Rights Groups Call On White House to Confront Extremist Violence of All Types, and Avoid Singling Out a Specific Faith

For Immediate Release
Contact: Josh Glasstetter, West End Strategy Team, 202-776-7700, Josh@westendstrategy.com

WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance today released an open letter to President Barack Obama, signed by 18 organizations, to express concern about the announcement of the upcoming White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. All of the organizations that joined together to write the letter condemn extremist violence, yet share a concern that the White House is focusing exclusively on Islamic extremists, which risks contributing to the marginalization of American Muslims.

The letter writers note that: “the Press Secretary’s statement mentions only acts of violence perpetrated by individuals who self-identify as Muslims, and it holds up as examples of prevention only CVE pilot programs directed at American Muslims. As you know, studies by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have shown that the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States were committed by non-Muslims.”

The letter concludes with a call to action for the White House: “Extremist Violence is a concern we all face. We ask you to assure us that the focus of the upcoming Summit on Countering Violent Extremism will be comprehensive, and to express that assurance in a very public way.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, said, “Unfortunately, no single religion has a monopoly on extremist violence. Diversity and religious pluralism are sources of pride for our country. The White House must make sure not to unfairly single out American Muslims as it seeks to confront violent extremism perpetrated in the name of any faith or ideology.” 
 
February 12, 2015
 
Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20500
 
Dear Mr. President,


The members of our organizations are saddened by every act of violence inspired by extremism. We unequivocally condemn those who resort to violence in pursuit of an extremist agenda.  At the same time, we must express our concern about the announcement of the upcoming White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism; the language points to only one type of these offenses, and in doing so seems to single out American Muslim communities.  In the end, that focus alone will shed light on only a portion of extremist violence in our nation and around the world, and will not be as effective in the important work of keeping our nation secure.

The Press Secretary’s statement mentions only acts of violence perpetrated by individuals who self-identify as Muslims, and it holds up as examples of prevention only CVE pilot programs directed at American Muslims.  As you know, studies by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have shown that the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States were committed by non-Muslims, most with right-wing or eco-terrorist agendas.  In the past years, some of the most startling attacks have targeted a Sikh gurdwara, and a Jewish community – neither of these were perpetrated by Muslims. The bombing last month outside an NAACP office in Colorado Springs, while still under investigation, may well turn out to be another act of terrorism.

We understand the need to speak to the concerns and fears of Americans by referencing crimes against communities that are fresh in people’s minds.  In the process of reassuring the public, the White House must be especially careful not to contribute to the marginalization of American Muslims.  By reinforcing the suspicion some individuals have of an entire faith community, the Administration might inadvertently undermine the principles of religious freedom and pluralism that are central to our national values and history.

Extremist violence is a concern we all face. We ask you to assure us that the focus of the upcoming Summit on Countering Violent Extremism will be comprehensive, and to express that assurance in a very public way.
 
Sincerely,


Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus
American Humanist Association
Asian American Legal Defense Fund
Auburn Theological Seminary
Bend The Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice
Brennan Center for Justice
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren
Interfaith Alliance
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
National Council of Jewish Women
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Sikh Coalition
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call to Justice
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

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Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.