WASHINGTON (AP) — Muslims in the U.S. and around the world have a responsibility to fight a misconception that terrorist groups like the Islamic State speak for them, President Barack Obama said Wednesday in his most direct remarks about any link between Islam and terrorism.
For weeks, the White House has sidestepped the question of whether deadly terror attacks in Paris and other Western cities amount to “Islamic extremism,” wary of offending a major world religion or lending credence to the “war on terror” that his predecessor waged. But as he hosted a White House summit on countering violent extremism, Obama said some in Muslim communities have bought into the notion that Islam is incompatible with tolerance and modern life.
“We are not at war with Islam,” Obama said. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
While putting the blame on IS and similar groups — Obama said the militants masquerade as religious leaders but are really terrorists — the president also appealed directly on prominent Muslims to do more to distance themselves from brutal ideologies. He said all individuals have a duty to “speak up very clearly” in opposition to violence against innocent people.
“Just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more than merely discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam,” Obama said.