‘Islamist extremists,’ phrase rejected by Obama, embraced by allies

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While President Obama and his aides insist that Muslim extremists have nothing to do with Islam the religion, other world leaders are leaving that approach behind. British Home Secretary Theresa May on Monday announced a get-tough policy that includes a comprehensive strategy to combat what she called “Islamist extremists,” a phrase the Obama administration officials have repeatedly refused to use. Ms. May said the new counter-extremism measures include the power to close sites “that are owned or occupied by extremists or are used to host extremist meetings or speakers.” It was widely interpreted in Britain to mean closing Islamic centres and mosques that foment intolerance and violence.

France has enacted tougher and more intrusive counterterrorism laws in the wake of the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo massacre carried out by two Islamists against a satirical magazine that had lampooned Islam.

The United States is home to a relatively small, but growing, Muslim population of 5 million to 8 million people, or about 2 percent, compared to 4 percent in Britain and France’s 8 percent. But the U.S. too has witnessed the kind of incidents seen in Europe. American Muslim residents have travelled to Syria to try to join the ultraviolent Islamic State terror army. Authorities have stopped a number of home-grown terror plots. Some, such as the Fort Hood massacre and the first attack on the World Trade Centre, were carried out by self-proclaimed jihadis in this country.

Soeren Kern, an analyst at the Gatestone Institute, which tracks radical Islam, said domestic politics are at work in Britain and France just as much as security concerns. Britain has general elections set for early May.

“The flurry of counterterrorism activity in recent months is an attempt by the Conservative government to stanch the flow of votes to right-wing parties such as the United Kingdom Independence Party, which has long warned of the danger posed by radical Islam, and which is now the third-most-popular political party in Britain,” Mr. Kern said.

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