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March 18, 2011

Thompson Delivers Remarks on Radicalization at Brennan Center for Justice

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, spoke at the Brennan Center for Justice's Symposium entitled Intelligence Collection and Law Enforcement: New Roles, New Challenges at New York University School of Law. Congressman Thompson was joined by Hon. John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and others. Below are excerpts of Ranking Member Thompson's prepared remarks:

Violent extremism knows no race, religion, or ethnicity.

As Ranking Member and former Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, I take threats to our nation's safety very seriously. I firmly believe that an inquiry into extreme ideology and violent action should be a broad-based examination.

I agree that homegrown terrorism and the jihadist threat deserve continuing attention; however, narrowly focusing our attention on a particular religious or ethnic group lacks clarity and common sense. Today's terrorists do not share a particular ethnic, educational or socioeconomic background.

At the Committee's hearing last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca testified that it is counterproductive to building trust when individuals or groups claim that Islam supports terrorism. The Brennan Center's recent report indicated that devoting all of our assets to investigate only the Muslim community leaves a gaping hole in our security and can potentially increase the level of government mistrust within the Muslim community.

Radicals falsely accuse the United States of engaging in a modern-day crusade against Islam, which fuels al Qaeda and its affiliates. This Anti-Muslim rhetoric can also potentially be harmful to U.S. military and diplomatic objectives and could place service members and citizens living and traveling abroad at risk.

We must maximize our efforts to counter violent extremism, radicalization and recruitment in the United States, and not succumb to xenophobia and ethnic stereotyping.

We cannot cripple ourselves by ignoring the fact that terrorist activity knows no race, ethnicity or religion. Doing so would be a grave disservice to our nation - and would disrespect those who have sacrificed their lives as a result of terrorist activity.

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978