Speaking again at the White House Summit to Countering Violent Extremism, President Obama asserted that the notion that the United States is at war with Islam is “an ugly lie.”
He encouraged all Muslim leaders to directly challenge the notion that somehow the West was at war with Islam.
“Obviously there is a complicated history between the Middle East and the West, and none of us, I think, should be immune from criticism in terms of specific policies,” he said. “But the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie.”
Obama criticized those who referred to Islamic State terrorists as Islamic, arguing that they were only offering the terrorists legitimacy.
“These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy and all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorists’ narrative,” he said.
But he did admit that groups, including ISIS, directly target followers of Islam to recruit them to their cause.
“At the same time, we must acknowledge that groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL are deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, particularly Muslim youth,” he said.
The president argued that world leaders should address societal grievances such as economic disparity and anti-immigrant sentiment that are exploited by terrorists for their own gain.
“When people spew hatred toward others because of their faith or because they are immigrants, it feeds into terrorist narratives,” he said, asserting that it created a “cycle of fear and resentment.”
“Young people are taught to hate,” he insisted. “It doesn’t come naturally to them. We adults teach them.”