WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama called on the world Thursday to confront efforts to use Islam to justify violence, saying Muslim communities in particular have a responsibility to push back on “twisted interpretations of Islam.”
With the Islamic State group spreading and terrorists gaining strength in the Mideast and Africa, Obama has sought to use a White House summit this week on violent extremism to urge the world to broaden its response far beyond military interventions. U.S. airstrikes have managed to blunt some of the militants’ gains in Iraq and Syria, but they don’t address the extreme ideologies that underpin deadly groups such as IS, al-Shabab and Boko Haram.
During the summit’s closing session at the State Department, Obama urged delegates from 65 countries to “confront the warped ideology” espoused by terror groups.
“These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy and all us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative,” Obama said, using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State.
He also called on Muslim communities to counter the notion that the West is at war with Islam.
“Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations; that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam or seek to suppress Muslims, or that we are the cause of every ill in the Middle East,” Obama said.
The president urged Arab nations in particular to take steps to quell sectarian violence and boost economic and educational opportunities for young people susceptible to recruitment by terror groups.