In an interview with The Atlantic published on Tuesday, President Obama said that Republican rhetoric about Islam and terrorism is partially to blame for Donald Trump’s statements about Muslims and his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
While discussing his belief that a president’s comments about Islam can impact the government’s ability to work with Muslims, Obama brought up Trump’s rhetoric about Islam.
“Let’s just track what has happened from the emergence of ISIS to the language that Donald Trump has used and his logical conclusion that we should ban Muslims from entering the country, including potentially Muslim citizens. That wasn’t by accident,” Obama told The Atlantic.
“I’m amused when I watch Republicans claim that Trump’s language is unacceptable, and ask, ‘How did we get here?’ We got here in part because the Republican base had been fed this notion that Islam is inherently violent, that this is who these folks are,” he continued. “And if you’ve been hearing that a lot, and then somebody shows up on the scene and says, well, the logical conclusion to civilizational conflict is we try to make sure that we’re not destroyed internally by this foreign civilization, that’s what you get.”
Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argue that Obama should change the way he talks about terrorism. Cruz has criticized Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Obama defended his approach in the interview with The Atlantic, arguing that rhetoric describing “a civilizational conflict between the West and Islam” is damaging.
“I do believe that how the president of the United States talks about Islam and Muslims can strengthen or weaken the cause of those Muslims who we want to work with, and that when we use loose language that appears to pose a civilizational conflict between the West and Islam, or the modern world and Islam, then we make it harder, not easier, for our friends and allies and ordinary people to resist and push back against the worst impulses inside the Muslim world,” he said.
“We have the ability to continue to promote the extraordinary success and patriotism and loyalty and success of Muslim Americans,” Obama later added. “That is as powerful a message that we can send to other Muslim countries who are going through these identity crises.”