"I witnessed horrible crimes committed by ISIS.
It's not a revolution or jihad … it's slaughter … I was shocked by what I did.
This isn't what we came for, to kill other Muslims.
I'm 28 — is this the only future I'm able to imagine?"
So said one of the many former terrorists in the world who have come to reject such violence.
What is violent extremism?
When we think of the issue, many immediately imagine the terrorists who kill innocent people — in America, in Europe, in the Middle East, and across the world.
But violent extremism runs deeper than the barbaric acts it breeds. It’s the ideologies, the propaganda, the recruitment, the funding — the entire infrastructure that extremists use to radicalize and recruit people to commit violence.
"We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."
A violent extremist could be anyone — a person of any color or creed. What we do know is that their extremism is rooted in common challenges: the unchecked spread of extremist ideologies, their economic grievances, and their political grievances.
This week, the White House is hosting a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism — a gathering of governments, civil society groups, and community leaders from more than 60 nations in Washington, D.C. to find ways we can empower local communities to overcome these challenges.
President Obama addressed the Summit yesterday and today on these issues. Watch his remarks from February 18: