White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama's upcoming summit on "countering violent extremism" will not focus specifically on Islamic extremism but on "the threat of foreign fighters" as a whole.
Speaking on the same afternoon that the Islamic State released a gruesome video showing a captured Jordanian air force pilot being burned alive, Earnest said: "There is this persistent problem that the president has been concerned about for some time, this issue of foreign fighters, and the success that organizations like ISIL have had in radicalizing people all across the globe."
Asked directly whether the summit's focus would be on Islamic extremism, Earnest said it would be part of but not the whole picture.
“We certainly have significant concerns, and they are well justified about the kind of radicalization efforts that are being targeted at the Muslim community and that there are Muslim children in particular who are at grave risk," he said. “But they are not the only ones at risk. We have talked about other violent extremists who are not Muslims who have carried out acts of violence in this country. We are interested in countering those as well. I’d be surprised if anybody thought that was not a worthy endeavor."
Earnest said the summit will include discussion among community leaders and law enforcement about countering the radicalization process among young Muslims.
“This would be an opportunity forum where the president could discuss those efforts with community leaders and law enforcement officials from across the country, so they can share those kinds of best practices with leaders in other communities. There also will be an opportunity for representatives from foreign countries to participate, because after all it is a broader international effort to counter this issue, of the threat of foreign fighters," he said.
The Obama administration has been criticized for appearing reticent to identify terror attacks as the work of radical Islamists. Earnest last month said the White House doesn't say "radical Islam" with respect to the Paris attacks as a matter of "accuracy."
“These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism and they later tried to justify an act of terrorism by invoking Islam and their own deviant view," Earnest said in January. "[Additionally] this was an act that was condemned by Muslim leaders. We have not chosen to use that label because it does not accurately describe what happened.”