Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” President Barack Obama “rejected the notion” that the war on terrorism is any kind of “religious war” against radical Islam.
Obama said, “I think that the way to understand this is, there is an element growing out of Muslim communities, in certain parts of the world, that have perverted the religion, have embraced an annihilistic, violent, almost medieval interpretation of Islam. And they’re doing damage in a lot of countries around the world. But it is absolutely true that I reject a notion that somehow that creates a religious war, because the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject that interpretation of Islam. They don’t even recognize it as being Islam. And I think that for us to be successful in fighting this scourge is very important for us to align ourselves with the 99.9% of Muslims who are looking for the same thing we’re looking for — order, peace, prosperity, and so I don’t quibble with labels. I think we all recognize that this is a particular problem that has roots in Muslim communities, but I think we do ourselves a disservice in this fight if we are not taking into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this ideology.”
The president continued, “What I do insist on is that we maintain a proper perspective and that we do not provide a victory to these terrorist networks by over-inflating their importance and suggesting in some fashion that they are an existential threat to the United States or the world order. The truth of the matter is, they can do harm, but we have the capacity to control how we respond in ways that do not undercut what’s the essence of who we are. That means that we don’t torture, for example, and thereby undermine our values and credibility around the world. It means that we don’t approach this with a strategy of sending out occupying armies and playing whack-a-mole wherever a terrorist group appears, because that drains our economic strength and it puts enormous burdens on our military. What’s required is a surgical, precise response to a very specific problem. And if we do that effectively, then ultimately these terrorist organizations will be defeated because they don’t have a vision that appeals to ordinary people. It really is, as it has been described in some cases, a death cult or an entirely backward looking fantasy that can’t function in the world.”
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