By RFE/ RL | –
U.S. President Barack Obama has said the United States is not “at war” with Islam, but with people who distort the religion.
Speaking on February 18 at the three-day White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, Obama said, “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
Obama said, “No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”
Some have criticized the White House for avoiding connecting extremism to the religion of Islam following shootings by Islamic militants in Paris and Copenhagen.
Obama said that the religious leaders of the Islamic State group are not “religious leaders” but “terrorists.” Throughout his speech, Obama separated IS from Islam.
The U.S. president depicted IS as a threat to the whole world, adding that the radical group as well as Al-Qaeda are “desperate for legitimacy.”
He added, “Violence against innocents doesn’t defend Islam and Muslims, it damages Islam and Muslims.”
Former U.S. President George W. Bush had also said repeatedly that the United States was not at war with Islam.
Obama also called on American Muslim communities to do more to counter what he called “violent extremism.”
He said, “Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam.”
Obama said young Muslims are particularly susceptible to extremist propaganda, which can lead them to join IS in Syria or carry out attacks domestically.
In congressional testimony last week, U.S. intelligence officials said as many as 150 Americans have attempted to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic militants.
The Washington conference drew delegates from 60 countries in the wake of a string of brutal attacks in Europe and the Middle East.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
Related video added by Juan Cole:
The White House: “President Obama Speaks at the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism”