Obama Explains Why Calling ISIL ‘Islamic’ Would Give It Legitimacy

February 18, 2015 5:23 p.m.

President Obama detailed his refusal to connect the terrorist Islamic State group with the term “Islamic” on Wednesday during a speech about the efforts to combat violent extremism.

In discussing his stance, Obama gave a nod to the ongoing debate and dissection within the media about whether to link ISIL and Islam.

“Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge, so I want to be very clear about how I see it,” Obama said. “Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it 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.'”

He also noted that “we are not at war with Islam” but rather are at war with the “people who have perverted Islam.”

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The President said both non-Muslims and Muslims must remember they have a responsibility in the struggle against extremism.

“Just as those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict or modern life and Islam are in conflict, I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well,” he said.

Finally, he reiterated that religions themselves aren’t the issue at play.

“The terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology,” Obama said. “No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

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