The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism
By Anila Ali
American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Council
It was an honor for a Muslim American woman to be invited to the White House to attend the historic Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). It was even more humbling to have been chosen by law enforcement departments of Homeland Security, LAPD-Counter Terrorism, Sheriff’s Department and LA Human Rights Commission to be a speaker on the panel to present the LA Pilot Model on Countering Violent Extremism and talk about our community engagement efforts and advocate for multicultural education for Muslims in schools at the White House Summit with the President and the Vice President.
The strength of the relationships the agencies have built with Muslims of SoCal was self-evident as LA was chosen to present its best practices to the rest of the United States and indeed, the world. Building trust with the Muslims has been a part of the work that the law enforcement, FBI and LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing has been doing for many years now. Law Enforcement has engaged with the Muslims and an overwhelming majority of Muslims have embraced their efforts and collaborated with them on many community-building, service-oriented, empowerment programs. The American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Council was founded in partnership with the LAPD to ensure the inclusion of women in every aspect of American life and to encourage their civic participation.
The LA model that we shared is based on engagement - collaboration - and partnerships. It promotes this engagement through academic institutions, strengthening community-based organizations which in turn build resilient communities. The model includes local and federal government agencies and promotes understanding through dialogue and engagement. It is based on the premise that the Muslim community shares with law enforcement - strong communities and trusting relationships will be the best defense against extremism.
As an educator, my ideas centered around inclusive education - curriculums including tolerance for Muslims in a post-9/11 classroom to ensure that young Muslims are not marginalized. These efforts, if continued, will serve as a catalyst for integrating Muslim communities into the American fabric. The message that resonated with me was when the Vice President said, “Violent Extremism is not just a Muslim problem, it is an American problem.” President Obama went further to state that "it is also a global problem.” We are Americans and we are strong and we know that Qur'an states that if you kill one human life, it is as if you killed an entire humanity.
However, there are areas of concern that Muslims must be cognizant of - extremists are recruiting our children along with others. The fact that ISIS uses the word “Islamic” in its name associates it with Islam, the flag has the Shahadah - so we are in denial when we say they are not using Islam and our some radical terrorists. That is not how they are recruiting. We know ISIS and ISL are not Muslims - that message needs to be further elaborated to dispel incorrect notions using the same verses from the Qur'an they use to recruit and misguide people. Some people that I have spoken to who seemed conflicted have expressed the idea of one Muslim “Ummah” “caliphate” is alluring to them. Young people, who may be unhappy with political conflicts around the world will be susceptible to radical theories. We, as Americans, Muslims, and parents must keep a vigilant eye on our children and not hesitate to have a dialogue on issues. We must remind them of their rich South Asian cultural heritage and the fact that Muslims of South Asia lived in peace and coexisted for hundreds of years with non-Muslims and harbored no hatred for any religion. It is these very stories from their parents and their parents that will truly guide them toward the Islam that they were born into - a religion of peace and tolerance.
The effort of the government to bring all partnership in countering violent extremism together under one roof, The White House, is testament that Muslim American are included in policy making, they are included and looked upon as partners in defeating the evil ideology and existence of the terrorists. However, the most important message that the Muslims received was that the West is not at war with Islam; that there is no clash of civilizations - and that America is a nation of immigrants and Muslims are free to practice their faith just like any other American. The affirmation of this truth is self-evident that Muslims are allowed to open mosques, wear hijab if they wish or wear a beard, and that right is protected under the article 1 of the Bill of Rights:
The Summit included a roundtable discussion with Vice President Biden and all departments of governments, law enforcement and community members representing the pilot models, Los Angeles, Boston and Minneapolis. The discussion was open and inclusive of all perspectives. The Vice President was extremely receptive to the ideas and showed a genuine concern to ensure the inclusion of Muslim in dialogue on countering violent extremism. It was heartwarming to hear, “Countering extremism is not a Muslim problem - it is an American problem.” These golden words of wisdom resonate but we as Muslims must unite and join hands in countering the evil narrative of the terrorists. We must send out positive messages and promote only positive images. Any speech inciting hate for any group, religious, cultural, or law enforcement can be muffled with our narratives. I shared the Facebook page with the Vice President: Million American Muslim March Against Violent Extremism and how Muslims are now realizing that evil ideology cannot be fought with guns alone. It needs the VOICE - the voice of the mother, the father, the teenager, the grandparent, telling their stories. With 2.5 million Muslims in the US, surely, a million positive tweets about Islam, our culture and our love for our country are not impossible.
Like my Facebook Page: Million American muslims March Against Violent Extremism
Follow me on Twitter: @anilaali
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