President Barack Obama said Wednesday Muslims in America have become "afraid" after the recent series of violent incidents against their community and as extremism takes root in the United States inspired by terrorism overseas. He said in a op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times that while the U.S. has made progress combating extremism overseas, much work remains to be done at home. He also called for understanding and solidarity with the Muslim American community.
“We do not yet know why three young people, who were Muslim Americans, were brutally killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina,” wrote Obama. “But we know that many Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid. Americans of all faiths and backgrounds must continue to stand united with a community in mourning and insist that no one should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”
Obama also cited the killings at a Kansas Jewish community center last year and at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012. The three Muslim students were fatally shot by a North Carolina man on Feb. 10 and the accused culprit is charged with first-degree murder. A lone gunman killed three people at the Jewish center in April 2014, and another gunman killed six at the Sikh temple in August 2012.
The president said that even as the country is battling terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria and al Qaeda in Yemen, extra care must also be taken to make sure that that brand of violent extremism does not take root on American shores. "We know from experience that the best way to protect people, especially young people, from falling into the grip of violent extremists is the support of their family, friends, teachers and faith leaders,” he wrote.
This week, civil society groups and community leaders from more than 60 nations will gather in Washington for a global summit on countering violent extremism. “Our campaign to prevent people around the world from being radicalized to violence is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds. With this week's summit, we'll show once more that — unlike terrorists who only offer misery and death — it is our free societies and diverse communities that offer the true path to opportunity, justice and dignity,” wrote Obama.