US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy & Human Rights Sarah Sewall said the returning of awards by writers and artistes was an example of India’s tolerance and resilience in the face of terror. Citing the Dadri lynching, she also said that to defeat violent extremism of all kind leaders need to “immediately condemn such acts and the misguided belief that were used to justify such violence”.
Sewall was speaking at the Vivekananda International Foundation, where she was invited to deliver a speech on “Countering Violent Extremism”.
She said governments must ensure that all people have the freedom to peacefully speak, organise and worship. “The protection of rights is central to the battle against violent extremism,” she said. “We must know that laws alone cannot guarantee the freedom and security we seek. We have to challenge the underlying assumptions. Leaders in particular have to speak out against direct and indirect calls for hatred and violence. When extremism explodes, as in the lynching of a Muslim man last September or in the burning of churches, leaders must be quick to condemn those acts and the misguided beliefs used to justify such violence,” Sewall said.
“Let us be honest, violent extremists want a clash of civilisations. When we face them, we must reject their terms of engagement by according religious freedom, ensuring legal protection to all and speaking out immediately against discrimination and hatred of all types,” she said.
On IS, she said: “We need a smarter approach to counter terrorism, the kind posed by Daesh (IS). We need to go beyond military solutions. This involves preventing people from becoming terrorists.” She also stressed on role of women and religious leaders in identifying and fighting radicalism.
While praising efforts of Muslim religious leaders for condemning IS, she added that “family and community-led interventions may explain why so few Indians have joined Daesh”.
Condemning the Pathankot attack, Sewall said: “We have expressed our concerns to Pakistan. We will continue to push for action.”