October 31, 2010

Counter-Terrorism, Extremism, and Dialogue (originally delivered Nov. 24, 2008)


The United States is a notable venue for a conference on religious freedom and for a panel entitled “Counter-Terrorism, Extremism and Dialogue,” especially when some of the panelists have focused on Muslim persecution and terrorism against Christian minorities in various countries around the world. Ironically, the United States has just endured seven years of heightened suspicion of Muslims and Islam.

The winning candidate in our recent presidential election was the target of rumors and accusations that he is a Muslim. It may be a sign of progress, that some Americans used this as an excuse to vote against Barack Obama, since not so long ago the color of his skin would have been the issue. Yet, the United States still has a way to travel on the road to inclusive pluralism and mutual respect. As Senator Gordon Smith has emphasized, rather than disqualifying the United States from championing religious freedom around the world, our mixed history at home only obligates us further.

And, if anyone has trouble naming non-Muslim contemporary extremist movements, history abounds with significant examples.

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