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Not at war with Islam: Obama

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U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during keynote remarks of the White House Summit on countering violent extremism at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, in Washington D.C., the United States, Feb. 18, 2015. Obama said on Wednesday that the fight against violent extremism did not mean it was a fight against Islam and the world should resist granting religious legitimacy to terrorist groups.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during keynote remarks of the White House Summit on countering violent extremism at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, in Washington D.C., the United States, Feb. 18, 2015. Obama said on Wednesday that the fight against violent extremism did not mean it was a fight against Islam and the world should resist granting religious legitimacy to terrorist groups.

By Arun Kumar 

 Asserting that not religion but people are responsible for violence and terrorism, President Barack has declined to call the war against Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria as a war against a religion.

“We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with those who have perverted Islam,” he said in his keynote address  at a three -day White House summit on combating violent extremists attended by representatives of 60 nations.

“The terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology,” Obama said.

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism.”

“No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism,” he said amid applause.

While acknowledging attacks by Muslim extremists, Obama also identified other extremist attacks not perpetrated in the name of Islam.

These included the attacks on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and on a Jewish community centre last year, both perpetrated by white supremacists.

“In the face of horrific acts of violence-at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, or at a Jewish community centre outside Kansas City-we reaffirmed our commitment to pluralism and to freedom, repulsed by the notion that anyone should ever be targeted because of who they are, or what they look like, or how they worship,” Obama said.

“Most recently, with the brutal murders in Chapel Hill of three young Muslim Americans, many Muslim Americans are worried and afraid,” he said.

“And I want to be as clear as I can be: As Americans, all faiths and backgrounds, we stand with you in your grief and we offer our love and we offer our support,” Obama said.

Even as he rejected the notion that West and Islam are in conflict, the President said Muslim communities too have a responsibility to clear the misconception

“Now, 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.

“Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw, selectively, from the Islamic texts,” Obama said.

“They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations.”

Obama administration’s refusal to name Islamic extremism as the central threat has drawn anger from Republicans and criticism from some terrorism experts.

“I think the criticism is understandable-the terrorists themselves are claiming to be doing this in the name of Islam, and the White House is having to walk this very fine line,” said Bobby Ghosh, a CNN global affairs analyst.

“It basically risks scorn because people are going to take away from this-some people-that the White House is bending over too far backwards and not addressing the problem head on,” he said.