Why did Obama prevent reformist Muslims from attending ‘summit on violent extremism’?

Why did Obama prevent reformist Muslims from attending ‘summit on violent extremism’?

The White House has been adamant that the summit held last week addressed violent extremism and not Islam. Yet, as CNSNews reported (h/t reader Nevsky), the summit opened with a Muslim prayer, an honor conferred on no other religion. Liberal Los Angeles Times opinion writer Doyle McManus noted, moreover, in a column defending the administration:

The president uttered the words “Islam,” “Islamic” or “Muslim” 49 times in 34 minutes, and the words “terrorism” or “terrorist” 30 times. Anyone who thinks he’s ignoring the Islamic part of the problem isn’t paying attention — or else just trying to score political points.

Put somewhat differently, the summit — administration protestations notwithstanding — was very much about Islam, was in sum a rather lame defense of the more radical factions of that faith, and a stubborn refusal to connect it with the acts of terrorism that the Islamic State is carrying out in its name.

So if we can accept the premise that the summit was about Islam, and even if we can’t, why did the White House deny members of a prominent group of reformist Muslims from attending? Notes the Washington Examiner:

A group of 23 prominent Muslim reformers signed a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times on Jan. 11 asking “What can Muslims do to reclaim their ‘beautiful religion’?”


The group asserts that the administration is choosing to tune them out because they disagree with Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the Islamic roots of the extremists’ ideology.

Some of the most prominent reformers have argued for years that the ideological and theological roots of Islamist extremism must be addressed, but administration officials carefully avoided exactly that subject during Obama’s three-day summit.

The White House is also undermining its own efforts by working with people who sympathize with the goals of violent extremist groups, if not their methods, the reformers say.

In an article in the Washington Times, Clifford May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, asked a trenchant question that the White House would have a difficult time answering if it were put to them:

At a recent National Prayer Breakfast, Mr. Obama told Christians not to get up on their “high horse” in light of all the “terrible deeds” committed “in the name of Christ.” What soft bigotry leads him to believe that while Christians should contemplate the link between their faith and the Inquisition, Muslims are incapable even of considering a connection between the Islamic State and the Islamic faith?

Obama repeatedly insists that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. This is a straw man argument because no one I am aware has ever said that we are. We are at war, however, with Islamist radicals, whether or not he is willing to acknowledge that fact, and the question that needs to be asked based on his words and deeds is whose side he’s on.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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