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Security chief praises US Muslims

Muslim Americans are not part of the terrorism problem facing the US, but part of the solution, a White House chief has told a mosque audience.

Deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough set the Obama administration's tone for discussions on Sunday as tensions escalate before the first in a series of congressional hearings on Islamic radicalisation.

The government hearings, chaired by New York Republican Peter King, will focus on the level of co-operation from the Muslim community to help law enforcement agencies combat radicalisation.

Addressing an inter-faith forum at a mosque in Sterling, Northern Virginia, known for its long-time relationship and co-operation with the FBI, Mr McDonough said that instead of condemning whole communities, the US needed to protect them from intimidation.

Executive director of the centre Imam Mohamed Magid also spoke, along with representatives of a local synagogue and a Presbyterian church.

Mr McDonough called the mosque a "typically American place" and said it reminded him of his Catholic parish where he grew up in Minnesota. "Being religious is never un-American. Being religious is quintessentially American," he said.

He praised the mosque's members for taking "an unequivocal stand against terrorism". "You've sent a message that those who perpetrate such horrific attacks do not represent you or your faith and that they will not succeed in pitting believers of different faiths against one another," he said.

The majority of the recent terror plots and attempts against the US have involved people espousing a radical and violent view of Islam.

Mr King said the Muslim community could and should do more to work with authorities to stop its members from radicalising and recruiting others to commit violence. "I don't believe there is sufficient co-operation" by American Muslims with law enforcement, he told CNN's State Of The Union programme. "Certainly my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they get the same - they do not give the level of co-operation that they need."

The White House is close to finalising a strategy for countering violent extremism. Mr McDonough leads a working group of 13 federal agencies and offices - including the National Counterterrorism Centre and the departments of defence, education, health and human services, homeland security, justice and state - focused on finding ways to confront the problem.

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