By Olivia Estes
On Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, President Barack Obama spoke at a summit on countering the spread of violent extremism, also known as CVE. CVE refers to the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures system of public information, which is controlled by Homeland Security.
Obama and the White House Administration have been criticized for neglecting to use the term “Islamic Terrorism” in relation to recent terrorist attacks.
Some argue that this downplays the role of religion as both an incentive and justification of terrorist groups and their actions, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.
The summit conference comes at a time when recent terrorist attacks have ignited fear domestically and internationally.
There was an attack on an air base in Western Iraq in close proximity to the U.S forces’ training ground for Iraqi troops.
Additionally, Islamic State fighters massacred 21 Egyptian Christians, who were kidnapped and taken to Libya, which ultimately led to Egyptian air strikes in Libya.
Lastly, in Copenhagen a gunman shot and killed a Jewish guard and Danish film director, among others, before being killed by police. The gunman had embraced Islamic militancy.
Primarily, the newfound fear in relation to terrorism is its recent success in online recruitment of new members.
President Obama and staff alluded to the imminent threat of terrorist extremist online recruitment and their recent success in recruiting vulnerable groups of people through propagandist tactics.
Obama argues that we are not at war with religion, but we are at war with the people who “perverted Islam.”
This statement is central in Obama’s argument, as it rejects preconceived ideas about the inherent connection between terrorism and the Islamic religion.
Priscilla Alvarez, in “The National Journal” online newspaper, stated, “White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest asserted Wednesday that the choice to avoid associating the Islamic State with religion was made to prevent opportunity for recruitment, even citing Osama bin Laden.”
Obama is disassociating religion and terrorism in order to prevent vulnerable Muslims from joining such terrorist groups on account of religious purposes.
These terrorist groups use religion as their primary enticement for new members despite their extremist representation of the religion. It is speculated that members are recruited on the grounds that it is their rite of passage, and it is their religious duty.
Therefore, Obama terminating the connection between terrorism and Islam could be an effective way to end new member recruitment. Obama stating, “No religion is responsible for terrorism,” during his summit speech is hardly surprising.
His stance on this matter has remained consistent, as seen in his last State of the Union Address: “Assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed.”
In large part, Obama is employing fundamental democratic values through his assigning accountability to people rather than to religious institutions.
America’s history is unique, for we have embraced diversity and immigration of all nationalities.
If we place blame on Islam rather than the people themselves, we are instilling contradictory ideas about our democratic state and values.
It is important to foster and promote democracy, which Obama is attempting to do quite diplomatically, despite the criticism of Republicans.
“We are not at war with Islam.” Obama’s powerful words leave Republicans fairly dismayed.
Kevin Liptak wrote in an article for CNN: “The refusal to name Islamic extremism as the central threat has drawn anger from Republicans and confusion from some terrorism experts who say the threat from Muslim-aligned radicals should be addressed directly.”
Republicans argue that we shouldn’t be quarreling over terminology and should instead address the issue at hand.
Preventing recruitment will take more than a simple re-wording or re-labeling of terrorist groups.
This side of the argument is strong; however, it isn’t that simple.
Ending terrorism requires the destruction in the ability of these terrorist groups to capture and train new members.
Recently, new members have included Americans, causing this problem to be more severe than the recruitment of Muslims and people abroad.
If the American people are able to convert and be convinced to join terrorist groups, then something immediate needs to be done.
The criticism for Obama’s chosen terminology in describing terrorist groups is trivial in the broader scheme of things.
We must spend less time worrying about trifling matters and more time searching for and implementing solutions.
This is simply another Democrat versus Republican quarrel that detracts from forming a plan and putting it into action.