Speaking at the White House summit on preventing violent extremism, President Obama defended the peaceful nature of the Muslim faith, in spite of terrorists using tenets of the religion for their own ends.
“No religion is responsible for violence and terrorism,” Obama asserted. “People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”
Obama pointed out that, although the leaders of ISIS like to portray themselves as religious leaders, they are mistaken.
“They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists,” Obama said. “And we are not at war with Islam, we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
Obama pointed instead to Islamic religious leaders who cited the Koran to prove that Muslims were committed to a religion of peace.
“These religious leaders and scholars preach that Islam calls for peace and for justice and tolerance toward others, that terrorism is prohibited, that the Koran says, ‘Whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.’” he said. “Those are the voices that represent over a billion people around the world.”
But the president challenged the Muslim community to work harder to compete with Islamic State terrorists for the hearts and minds of young people. He pointed out that young Muslims were who were “disillusioned” with their identity were being “brainwashed” by ISIS propaganda.
“The high quality videos, the online magazines, the use of social media, terrorist twitter accounts, it’s all designed to target today’s young people online in cyberspace,” Obama explained. “By the way, the older people here, as wise and respected as you may be, your stuff is often boring compared to what they’re doing.”
Obama admitted that there are still Muslim communities teaching that their religion is “incompatible” with modernity, and need to change the narrative.
“[M]uslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there’s an inherent clash in civilizations,” he said. “Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn’t defend Muslims or Islam, it damages Islam and Muslims.”