WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A conference on global extremism begins Wednesday, with representatives of 60 countries arriving in Washington for the three-day summit hosted by President Barack Obama.
Obama will open the event with a speech Wednesday afternoon, his first opportunity to address the recent beheadings of Coptic Christians in Libya and a shooting rampage at a Jewish center in Denmark. His opinion piece in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, in which he referred to attacks by "individuals from various religions," suggested Obama is making clear the summit, and whatever solutions it may bring, should not be regarded as a strategy session in a global war against Islam.
"With al-Qaida and ISIL (Islamic State) peddling the lie that the United States is at war with Islam, all of us have a role to play by upholding the pluralistic values that define us as Americans. This week, we'll be joined by people of many faiths, including Muslim Americans who make extraordinary contributions to our country every day," he wrote.
In planning the summit, the White House has avoided the suggestion that Islamic extremism is its focus, and officials have consistently said it will cover issues beyond those in Syria and Iraq. Terrorists "come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. We call them our enemies and we'll be treating them as such," a senior administration leader commented Monday.
Obama's newspaper editorial is a likely tipoff to the nature of his speech Wednesday. He will point to U.S. cities in which police and Muslim communities cooperate to address the causes of extremism, a senior official said, noting programs in Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.