President Obama Rejects 'Notion That the West Is at War With Islam'

Terrorists are just "desperate for legitimacy," the president said.

ByABC News
February 19, 2015, 12:23 PM

— -- President Obama today challenged the idea that terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State are connected to the Islamic faith during remarks at the White house Summit to Counter Violent Extremism.

"The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie," Obama said. "And all of us -- regardless of our faith -- have a responsibility to reject it."

Speaking at the State Department on the third day of the summit, he called on countries to address the conditions, or “political grievances,” that terrorists exploit such as human rights violations, lack of free speech and tension between social groups.

"We need to break the cycle of conflict, especially sectarian conflict, that have become magnets for violent extremism,” he added.

The president said that the coalition of 60 countries that has been conducting air strikes against ISIS “will not relent” to destroy the organization in Iraq and Syria.

“These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy,” Obama said, which is why he said they target Muslim communities.

Obama said both wealthy and developing nations need to take steps to improve the economic situation around the world, though he said poverty alone does not prompt someone to become a terrorist.

Obama said many people in countries with small Muslim populations get a distorted impression from news coverage. He specifically called out groups like women and young people to help prevent potential recruits from joining terrorist groups.

“Young people are not tapped for hate, it doesn’t come naturally to them. We adults teach them,” he said.

Obama continued to say that everyone has to work to bring more positive attention to the Muslim community.

“Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL peddle the lie that some of our countries are hostile to Muslims,” he said, adding that “we can’t allow cycles of suspicion to tear at the fabric of our cultures."

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