World must fight 'false promises' of extremism, says Obama


US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama

United States President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Western and Muslim leaders to unite to defeat the “false promises of extremism” and reject jihadists’ claims to represent Islam.

“The terrorists do not speak for a billion Muslims,” Obama told delegates from 60 countries at a White House summit on countering radicalism.

“They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors,” he said. “They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists.”

In the wake of brutal jihadist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, Obama said more must be done to prevent groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda from recruiting and radicalizing.

The battle, he said, was as much for hearts and minds as one waged by the military on the ground and in the air.

The “ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists, the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence,” must be tackled.

He challenged critics at home and moderate governments abroad to undercut the jihadist narrative that there is a “clash of civilizations” between an anti-Muslim west and a radicalized Middle East.

Domestically Obama has been pilloried for not describing the attacks in Denmark, France, Syria and Libya as the work of “Islamic radicals.”

He choose to face down the critics Wednesday saying “we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

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“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,” Obama said.

He spoke emotionally about a Valentine’s card he received from an 11-year-old Muslim American called Sabrina.

“I am worried about people hating Muslims,'” she wrote “‘please tell everyone that we are good people and we’re just like everyone else.”

Obama insisted “Muslim communities have a responsibility as well” to fight groups “desperate for legitimacy.”

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State “do draw selectively from the Islamic texts,” he said. “They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith.”

“Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam.”

Communities in the United States and abroad must do their part, he said.

“We have to be honest with ourselves. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State) deliberately target their propaganda in the hopes of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims.”

They do so through “high-quality videos, the online magazines, the use of social media, terrorists Twitter accounts — it’s all designed to target today’s young people online in cyberspace.”

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