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Obama Asks Muslim-Americans to Condemn Extremism

President Barack Obama speaks about counter-terrorism and the United States' fight against the Islamic State group during a speech to the country from the White House, Dec. 6, 2015.

President Barack Obama speaks about counter-terrorism and the United States' fight against the Islamic State group during a speech to the country from the White House, Dec. 6, 2015.

President Barack Obama has asked Muslim-American leaders to condemn extreme Islam.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the president “would like to see leaders in the Muslim community stand up and speak out more forcefully in terms of condemning these hateful, radicalizing messages that we see from extremist organizations.”

Earnest said Muslims “will be more effective if they are working in close partnership with the federal government, and with law enforcement, and with our counterterrorism professional,s and with our neighbors to fight” extremists.

In a speech at the White House on Sunday, Obama said the Islamic State terrorist group “does not speak for Islam.” He said there are “millions of patriotic Muslim-Americans who reject their hateful ideology.”

The president said “if we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”

He called on Muslims to confront “without excuse” what he called the “real problem” of extremist ideology spreading within some of their communities.

Mustafa El-Amin, the leader of a Muslim religious center in Newark, New Jersey, said he agreed with the president. El-Amin said that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups “do not speak for or represent Islam in any way.” He noted that many of the victims of terrorism around the world are Muslim.

The president spoke in answer to violence last week in Southern California. Husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in a shooting attack. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation called them “radicalized.”

One of Tashfeen’s few friends told the Washington Post newspaper that “she became so religious, so serious and so focused on Islamic teachings, and she lost her interest in her studies.”

Some of the president’s political opponents said that the speech was disappointing and offered no new plans to fight the Islamic State group.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He said “until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

A similar response is seen in France, where a French political party critical of Muslims won local elections. Candidates of the National Front party got the majority of votes in six of the country’s 13 regions. The final result will be decided in a second vote on Sunday.

After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last month, party leader Marine Le Pen said France should stop accepting Muslim immigrants.

Conservative political parties have gotten support from voters throughout Europe in recent months. These parties often criticize immigrants and call for their countries to stop accepting refugees.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

This story was reported by VOA White House Correspondent Aru Pande; Correspondents Pir Wilayat Shah and Arshad Hussain in Karor Lal Esan, Pakistan; Correspondent Henry Ridgwell in London and VOA Correspondent Ramon Taylor in New York. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reporting into VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

radicalize – v. to cause (someone or something) to become more radical (defined as “having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people”) -- especially in politics

ideology – n. the set of ideas and beliefs of a group or political party

enlist – v. to get the support and help of (someone or something)

confront – v. to oppose or challenge (someone) especially in a direct and forceful way

horrendous – adj. very bad or unpleasant

jihad – n. a war fought by Muslims to defend or spread their beliefs

response – n. something that is done as a reaction to something else

region – n. a part of a country or the world that is different or separate from other parts in some way

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