President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Feb. 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Addressing a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on Wednesday and Thursday, the U.S. President Barack Obama opined that a violent extremist could be anyone — a person of any color or creed.
“We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” Obama said.
What we do know is that their extremism is rooted in common challenges: the unchecked spread of extremist ideologies, their economic grievances, and their political grievances, he said.
The Summit is a gathering of governments, civil society groups, and community leaders from more than 60 nations in Washington, D.C. to find ways to empower local communities to overcome these challenges.
Obama said Al Qaeda and ISIL (or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) and groups like them 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’re terrorists, Obama suggested.
So just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim 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.
Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn’t defend Islam or Muslims, it damages Islam and Muslims, Obama said in his address.
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