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Homeland Security Secretary: If You Don't Know Muslims Want Peace, You Don't Know Islam

In a Monday visit to a Northern Virginia mosque, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared "anyone who does not understand" that Muslims want peace "does not understand Islam."

Johnson dropped in on at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va., the day after President Obama said Americans have a responsibility to respect their Muslim neighbors.

Johnson said the "new phase" of the terror war -- with "terrorist-directed and terrorist-inspired attacks" -- requires "a whole new approach to counterterrorism and homeland security," including Muslim outreach as he's done over the past couple of years.

One of the "most meaningful discussions" on his "tour," he called it, was in June with the ADAMS Center imam, which began with a Boy Scout Troop leading meeting participants in the Pledge of Allegiance. That imam, Mohamed Magid, is a past president of the Islamic Society of North America, an organization linked to the Holy Land Foundation in its terror-financing trial and to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"In responding to this new environment, we must not vilify American Muslims. 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," Johnson said. "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 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.'"

Johnson promised the imam that he would "continue to speak out against the discrimination, vilification and isolation that American Muslims face in these challenging times."

"Now, I have an ask," he continued. "It is an ask of the people in this room 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."

He told the Muslim audience that "if you see someone turning toward violence, say something."

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

The Homeland Security secretary added that "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," said Johnson, noting that his grandfather in 1949 "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."