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Secretary Of State Kerry Attacks Religious Intolerance In Rice University Speech

Kerry said cooperating with Muslim religious and political leaders around the world is essential to defeat Islamist terrorism. He argued that anti-Muslim rhetoric by U.S. presidential candidates isn’t helping.



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Houston and Austin, Texas: April 26-27, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke before an audience of nearly 700 people at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, Tuesday evening. The theme of the address was the role of religion in foreign policy.

Secretary Kerry devoted much of his speech to condemning religious intolerance and violence.

He cited Islamist atrocities against Christians in the Mideast and Africa, persecution of Tibetan Buddhists in China, and resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe. But he also turned his attention to intolerance at home, alluding to anti-Muslim rhetoric by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

"There are troubling indications here in the United States," Kerry said, "where some have urged a ban on Muslim visitors, and where false stories about large numbers of Muslim-Americans supposedly celebrating the 9/11 attacks have been willfully disseminated by people who don't bother to check their facts."

Kerry countered that Muslims have lived in the United States since the country's founding and fought for the U.S. in every one of its wars.

"Efforts to smear them collectively for the actions of a few are despicable," he said, "and no more logical than it would have been in the 1990s to hold all Christians accountable for the atrocities committed against Muslim populations in Bosnia and Kosovo."

The secretary underscored the support the U.S. is receiving from Muslim political and religious leaders around the world in the long-term fight against terrorism.

"The real challenge is not simply to defeat one group in one place at one time," Kerry said, "but to create a global environment in which efforts to summon terrorist recruits fall on deaf ears."

Secretary Kerry also used his speech to highlight the role religious leaders are playing in efforts to address climate change. He cited Pope Francis, who issued an encyclical letter last year on the need to combat the problem. But he pointed to others as well.

"The leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, asked, ‘When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin?'" he said. "In last year's Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, Muslim leaders called for clear targets to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and invest in a clean energy economy."

Kerry said the Houston area is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. He noted the most recent studies of rising sea levels indicate that Galveston, Padre, and Matagorda Islands could be inundated by the end of the century and that significant parts of Houston itself are at risk.


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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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