Last month in the Twin Cities, I met with imams, activists, teachers and other community leaders from the local Muslim-American community. They proudly told me how much positive change hard-working immigrants from Somalia and elsewhere have brought to previously depressed neighborhoods. They also said they want to do more to organize their community against radicalization by providing alternatives and opportunities for at-risk young people and working with law enforcement, but they need more resources and support. We talked about how empowering Muslim-American communities must be a crucial part of our strategy to protect our country and defeat the threat from radical jihadism.
Bigotry and bluster will not keep our country safe — that will take real leadership. That’s why I’ve laid out a comprehensive three-part plan to defeat ISIS and win the broader struggle against radical jihadism.
First, defeat ISIS in the Middle East by striking its stronghold from the air and intensifying support for local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground.
Second, defeat ISIS around the world by dismantling the global network of terror that supplies radical jihadists with money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.
Third, defeat ISIS here at home by foiling plots, disrupting radicalization, and hardening our defenses. This will require a 360-degree strategy to stop terrorists from recruiting, training, plotting, and carrying out attacks.
Deny jihadists both real and virtual territory
To shut down recruitment in the United States, especially online, we have to deny jihadists virtual territory, just as we deny them actual territory in the Middle East. To stop terrorist training, we have to prevent would-be jihadists from traveling overseas and foreign jihadists from coming here, including by revoking passports and visas of fighters who have joined ISIS or other groups. To detect and disrupt plots, we have to improve intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing. And we also have to provide all the resources and training our law enforcement officers need — they risk their lives and there’s no limit to the gratitude we owe them.
And crucially, to break the cycle of radicalization and prevent attacks, we have to empower Muslim-American communities. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to block it. We need more programs that bring together parents, teachers, imams, and others in the community with law enforcement, nonprofits, local businesses, and mental health professionals to intervene with young people at risk of falling into radicalization. When people see that respect and trust are two-way streets, they’re more likely to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement.
Muslim Americans contribute so much to our country every day. They are our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. And we should all be outraged by Republican presidential candidates trafficking in anti-Muslim prejudice and paranoia — including Donald Trump’s disgraceful proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
The consequences of anti-Muslim rhetoric
Anti-Muslim rhetoric is not only shameful, it’s dangerous. It actually plays into the hands of terrorists. As the director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult. We need every community invested in this fight, not alienated and sitting on the sidelines. Demonizing Muslims also alienates partners around the world we need in the fight against ISIS and it feeds a false narrative that jihadists use to recruit new followers — that the United States is at war with Islam. This is not a clash of civilizations; it’s a clash between civilization and barbarism. That’s how it must be seen and fought.
Some say that our open society is a vulnerability in the struggle against terrorism — I disagree. I believe our tolerance and diversity are at the core of our strength. There is no greater proof than our country’s many Muslim heroes, like Capt. Humayun Khan. Khan moved to Maryland as a small child and enlisted in the U.S. Army after college. In June 2004, his unit was guarding its base in Iraq when a suspicious vehicle appeared. He took 10 steps toward the car, but told his troops to get back. Khan was killed when the car exploded, but his courage saved his unit.
His father still marvels at those 10 steps. “Maybe that’s the point where all the values, all the service to country, all the things he learned in this country kicked in,” his father said recently. “Those 10 steps told us we did not make a mistake in moving to this country.”
Choose resolve over fear
As a nation, we must rely on the principles written into our American DNA: freedom, equality, opportunity. So I want to tell all our Muslim-American brothers and sisters: This is your country too. I’m proud to be your fellow American.
The threat we face is daunting, but America has overcome big challenges before. I’m confident we will once again choose resolve over fear, and defeat these new enemies just as we’ve defeated those who have threatened us in the past. But we need to act with both courage and clarity, remaining true to our principles.
America is strongest when all our people believe they have a stake in our country and our future — no matter where they’re from, what they look like, how they worship, or whom they love. That’s who we are, and it’s how we’ll win.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in her 2016 candidacy for president of the United States. She outlined her counterterrorism plan in a speech at the University of Minnesota on Dec. 15.
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