Wednesday at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, President Barack Obama addressed the controversy over his administration’s refusal to label terrorists like ISIS and al Qaeda radical Islamic extremist.
The president said, “Leading up to this summit, there has been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge. So I want to be very clear about al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the Islamic state. And they propagate the notion that America and the west generally is at war with Islam. That’s how they recruit. That’s how they try to radicalize young people. We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
“Those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the west and Islam are in conflict, or modern life and Islam are in conflict,” he continued. “I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well. Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw selectively from the Islamic texts. They do depend upon the misconception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith. That Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations. Of course the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology. They no more represent Muslim than those who would represent Christianity or Hinduism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism. And to their credit, there are respected Muslim clerics and scholars, not just here in the United States, but around the world, who push back on this twisted interpretation of their faith.”
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