Sheikh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi, a Syrian Muslim cleric and scholar, listens as President Barack Obama addresses a White House summit on countering violent extremism on Feb. 19 in Washington. (Photo : Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The terminology President Barack Obama employs as the United States fights ISIS, al-Qaida and other Islamist militants came under scrutiny as the president hosts a three-day White House summit on the fight against terrorism.
The Los Angeles Times reported the Obama administration refuses to use phrases such as “Islamic extremism” or “Muslim terrorists” in an effort to avoid legitimizing violent groups that purport to advance political Islam, but critics accuse the president of tiptoeing around the issue out of reluctance to offend Muslims.
The New York Post criticized Obama for “proclaiming that ‘Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding'” despite “months of unrelenting atrocities by ISIS killers.” The group, which controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, recently beheaded 21 Coptic Christians and burned a Jordanian fighter pilot alive.
Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, called the president an “apologist for radical Islamic terrorists,” Fox News reported. The senator mocked Obama for comparing modern-day atrocities to those committed during the Crusades.
Still, Obama and his staff are careful not to make their efforts sound like a religiously driven campaign against Muslims, who number more than 1 billion people in more than four dozen countries around the globe.
“No religion is responsible for terrorism — people are responsible for violence and terrorism,” the president said.
ISIS and al-Qaida militants, meanwhile, distort the true meaning of the religion they purport to defend, Obama argued.
“We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie,” he said. “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.”
Obama also told attendees of the White House meeting — the guest list of which was not made public — that Muslims have made important contributions to American society.
“Generations of Muslim immigrants came here and went to work as farmers and merchants and factory workers, helped to lay railroads and build up America,” he said.