An array of experts, including ex-hate group leaders, will converge on Louisville on Wednesday, Oct. 23, for a day of discussions on how to combat violent extremism.
Fighting for Peace: Countering Hate, Violence and Extremism, which will be held at the University of Louisville, will be sponsored by the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, The Temple, Temple Shalom, Peace Catalyst International (PCI), the Turkish-American Friendship Association and U of L.
In addition to reformed hatemongers, the program will include a rabbi, imam and pastor, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad and a representative of Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer.
When people, rightly or wrongly, feel pushed into a corner, some will respond violently, PCI Acting Director Martin Brooks said. “How we prevent that from happening is the question of the day…. We’ll put out resources in the hands of the people, who attend the event. We’ll set up a website with all resources collected from the speakers that we’ll make available to the people.”
Louisville is not immune to violent extremism. Since 2015, a mosque and Hindu temple have been vandalized, while two black shoppers were gunned down at the Jeffersontown Kroger mere days before the Tree of Life shootings in Pittsburgh.
PCI is an international nonprofit organization that builds relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“We’re a bunch of former missionaries that just decided there had to be a better way to relate to people than trying to convert everybody,” Brooks said.
Fighting for Peace will feature three opening plenary speakers at the daytime program in the Ekstrom Library:
• Rushan Abbass, an advocate for more than one million Uyghurs – Turkic Muslims being incarcerated in western China, falsely accused of terrorism;
• Jesse Morton, an American convert to Islam, who was a propagandist/recruiter for al-Qaeda in the United States. He will share how he recruited others and what type of person he targeted;
• Tony McAleer, a reformed white nationalist, who has since started a group called Life After Hate to help people get out of hate groups. He will recount what attracted him to white nationalism and why he left it.
Following their presentations, Jason P. Abbott, director of the Center for Asian Democracy at UofL, will moderate a discussion with the three speakers, tying the remarks of the speakers together, showing what attracts people to violent extremism and how the process can be thwarted.
There will be a catered vegetarian lunch, with each plenary speaker given a breakout room where people can dine with them and hear more about their stories.
Brooks will moderate an afternoon panel how violent extremism affects communities of faith. The panelists will be Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner of Temple Shalom, Imam Muhammad Wasif Iqbal of the River Road Mosque and Pastor Tyler McKenzie of the Northeast Christian Church.
The last session will be a community awareness and response discussion moderated by University of Louisville Political Science Professor Sherri Wallace. The panelists – LMPD Chief Conrad, FBI representative Jake Williams, Vincent James from the mayor’s office and UofL Professor of Public Policy Monica Wendell – will discuss community resources available to check the rise of violent extremism here. Finally, in the evening, the three plenary speakers make second presentation at the Kornhauser Auditorium at the UofL School of Medicine. Amina Elahi of WFPL will moderate.
Want to go?
The event will cost $10 to reserve your seat and pay for your lunch. Vegetarian options will be available. Seating is limited for this program. Go to to https://bit.ly/2l191NM to RSVP for the daytime program; for the evening program https://bit.ly/2lHRlHs.