September 24, 2014 — New York, NY
AJC praised President Obama’s call on Arab and Muslim countries to collectively address the sources of violent extremism raging across much of the Middle East and North Africa.
“It is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL,” President Obama told the UN General Assembly today.
“No children anywhere should be educated to hate other people. There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim,” said Obama. “It is time for a new compact among civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.”
AJC Executive Director David Harris hailed the president’s challenge. “For too long, the U.S. and the world have faced escalating, security threats emanating from the Middle East,” said Harris. “President Obama’s challenge to Arab and Muslim countries, some of them longstanding U.S. allies, is critical, and will require direct follow-up to ensure they do indeed address the roots of the problem.”
“For years, AJC has been urging greater focus on the systemic and structural challenges in these nations that contribute to instability, stalled development and conflict,” Harris continued. “Thus, we couldn’t be more pleased that President Obama has now directly identified and confronted the core issues of the region.”
“Cutting off the funding that fuels this hate” is essential, said Obama. “It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.”
Obama also called on Arab and Muslim countries to “focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth,” and to take steps to improve education and economic opportunities, and seek full participation of women in their societies.
“Where a genuine civil society is allowed to flourish, where people can express their views, and organize peacefully for a better life, then you dramatically expand the alternatives to terror,” said Obama.
Referring to the UN Security Council resolution to be adopted later today calling on all UN members to take action against violent extremism, Obama said: “Next year, we should be prepared to announce the concrete steps that we have taken to counter extremist ideologies – by getting intolerance out of schools, stopping radicalization before it spreads, and promoting institutions and programs that build new bridges of understanding.”
Obama also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to pursue a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace based on a two-state solution. But, importantly, he stressed that this conflict is not the main one in the region, or the world.
“The situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya should cure anyone of the illusion that this conflict is the main source of problems in the region; for far too long, it has been used in part as a way to distract people from problems at home,” Obama said.
On Iran’s nuclear program, Obama reiterated his call on Tehran to “seize this historic opportunity” for a diplomatic resolution. “Do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.”