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Remarks By Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson At The University of Michigan-Dearborn - As Prepared

Release Date: 
January 15, 2016

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

Date of Delivery: Jan. 13, 2016
Dearborn, Mich.
University of Michigan-Dearborn
(As prepared)

On Wednesday, January 13, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visited Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan. Throughout the day he was accompanied by Congressman John Conyers and Congresswoman Debbie Dingel. At a press event on the Dearborn campus of the University of Michigan, the Secretary made the following comments:

“I’ve said for some time now, we are in a new phase of the global terrorist threat. It includes terrorist-directed and terrorist-inspired attacks. It includes plots from overseas, and the potential for the ‘lone wolf’ actor in the homeland. This new phase requires a whole new approach to counterterrorism and homeland security. This must include outreach to Muslim communities across this country. 

Over the last two years I've been to Boston, New York, Brooklyn, suburban Maryland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus, Houston, Los Angeles and other places for this purpose.  Today I am here in Dearborn, Michigan for this purpose. 

My message today is this: in responding to this new environment, we must not vilify American Muslims. 

As the President said last night, ‘we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion.’ 

We must not throw a net of suspicion over American Muslims and an entire religion.  

We must not force American Muslims to run and hide, and retreat to the shadows.

This would be counter to our homeland security efforts, and it is un-American.

Now, more than ever, is the time to work together, to protect and defend our communities, our families, and our homeland.

The reality is that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. It is the second largest religion in the world, behind Christianity. One in four people on this planet are Muslim. Within the Muslim faith, which spreads across every continent of this planet, are sects as diverse as Christianity.   Within this country alone there are about 3 million Muslims. They include African Americans, Egyptian Americans, Indonesian Americans, Iraqi Americans, Syrian Americans, and many others of different races and skin colors. The overwhelming, overwhelming majority of American Muslims, and Muslims worldwide, are men, women and children of peace, who seek to live their lives in peace, and want nothing to do with terrorism. Anyone who does not understand this does not understand Islam.

The very essence of the Islamic faith is peace. The standard greeting As-salamu alaykum is ‘peace be upon you.’ The principal victims of the so-called Islamic state and al Qaeda are Muslims. The four million men, women and children who have left their homes in Syria as refugees are fleeing the very same terrorism and violence that we are concerned about. 

As long as I am Secretary of Homeland Security, I will continue to speak out against the discrimination, vilification and isolation that American Muslims face in these challenging times. 

Now, I have an ask:

It is an ask of the people in this community and all Muslims across this country. Terrorist organizations overseas have targeted your communities. They seek to pull your youth into the pit of violent extremism. Help us to help you stop this. If you see something say something. This is more than a slogan. If you see someone turning toward violence, say something. Say something to law enforcement, or to one of your community or religious leaders. When people self-radicalize, someone close to them is almost always in a position to see the signs.  

Help us to help you amplify your message about the true meaning of Islam, as a religion of peace. 

Help us to help you warn young people about the barbaric, oppressive, and dangerous nature of ISIL, and the danger of traveling to a place like Syria.  

Encourage your youth to challenge their peers. 

Encourage your youth that, if they see someone attracted to ISIL’s message, they should tell them there is a better way to change the world without violence. 

Most of all: do not become bitter. Do not lose faith. Have faith in this country. 

Over and over again, in the life of this Nation, there have been classes of people who, by virtue of their race, religion or nationality, exist on the margins of society, who are the object of prejudice, scorn and suspicion, and seek to win acceptance. It is also the tradition of this great Nation that, ultimately, those who once existed on the margins of society become part of the fabric of our society.  

Congressman Conyers, I haven’t told you this yet: In 1949, during the McCarthy era, my own grandfather was called upon to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, to deny he was a member of the Communist Party and defend the patriotism of African Americans. Today his grandson is responsible for the homeland security of this entire Nation.  

One month before my grandfather died in 1956 – and this was in the era of Jim Crow, the segregated south, before the civil rights movement and laws – he said something that I believe today:

Bitterness grows out of hopelessness, and there is no hopelessness in this situation, however uncomfortable and menacing it may be at times.  Faith in the ultimate strength of the democratic philosophy and code of the Nation as a whole has always been stronger than the impulse to despair.’

Thank you all for listening to me, and I would now like to ask Congressman Conyers and Congresswoman Dingell if they would like to say a few words.”

 

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Secretary Johnson’s visit to Michigan was part of the State of the Union: Cabinet In Your Community. Learn more in this Fact Sheet. To read more and see photos about Secretary Johnson’s trip, follow #DHSinDearborn on social media. 

For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/.

 

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Last Published Date: July 18, 2016
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