Obama: ‘No Religion Is Responsible for Terrorism’

At a summit on combating extremism, the president tried to separate the actions of the Islamic State from the tenets religion.

National Journal
Feb. 18, 2015, 11:51 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama, much to the chag­rin of Re­pub­lic­ans and oth­ers, has avoided rhet­or­ic­ally ty­ing the ac­tions of the Is­lam­ic State to rad­ic­al Is­lam, or Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ists. In a speech Wed­nes­day at a White House Sum­mit on com­bat­ing vi­ol­ent ex­trem­ism, he laid out why.

Is­lam­ic State fight­ers “are not re­li­gious lead­ers, they are ter­ror­ists,” Obama said. “And we are not at war with Is­lam. We are at war with people who have per­ver­ted Is­lam.”

“No re­li­gion is re­spons­ible for ter­ror­ism,” he said. “People are re­spons­ible for vi­ol­ence and ter­ror­ism.”

Obama also em­phas­ized the im­port­ance of tar­get­ing pro­pa­ganda ef­forts by the Is­lam­ic State.

“Ter­ror­ist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL de­lib­er­ately tar­get their pro­pa­ganda in the hopes of reach­ing and brain­wash­ing young Muslims, es­pe­cially those who may be dis­il­lu­sioned or wrest­ling with their iden­tity. That’s the truth,” Obama said.

Back at home, the pres­id­ent stressed the need to pro­tect Muslim Amer­ic­an com­munit­ies and tackle the ste­reo­types that sur­face with the faith.

“So in our work, we have to make sure that ab­uses stop, are not re­peated, that we do not stig­mat­ize en­tire com­munit­ies,” Obama said. “Nobody should be pro­filed un­der a cloud of sus­pi­cion simply be­cause of their faith.”

The White House has been mak­ing a sim­il­ar ar­gu­ment in light of in­creas­ing cri­ti­cism of how the pres­id­ent speaks. White House Press Sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est as­ser­ted Wed­nes­day that the choice to avoid as­so­ci­at­ing the Is­lam­ic State with re­li­gion was made to pre­vent op­por­tun­ity for re­cruit­ment, even cit­ing Osama bin Laden.

“There is evid­ence that Osama bin Laden was frus­trated that al Qaeda was be­ing re­cog­nized and ac­know­ledged and thought not as a re­li­gious or­gan­iz­a­tion, but as a ter­ror­ist group,” Earn­est said. “He even con­tem­plated in the writ­ings chan­ging the name of al Qaeda to try to more closely identi­fy it with Is­lam. He felt like that would be help­ful to the re­cruit­ing ef­forts.”

Obama only briefly men­tioned plans for mil­it­ary force against the Is­lam­ic State.

“There will be a mil­it­ary com­pon­ent to this.” Obama said . “These are sav­age cruel­ties go­ing on out there that have to be stopped.”

The White House form­ally re­ques­ted per­mis­sion to use mil­it­ary force in a draft res­ol­u­tion to Con­gress this month.

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