WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he refuses to describe the Islamic State and al Qaeda as groups fueled by "radical Islam" because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don't deserve.
"They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists," Obama said during remarks at a White House event on countering violent extremism. "We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."
Obama said the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is "desperate" to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It counts on that legitimacy, he said, to propagate the idea that Western countries are at war with Islam, which is how it recruits and radicalizes young people.
"We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie," he said.
The president said the Islamic State and al Qaeda do draw selectively from Islamic texts to try to justify that they are in a religious war. But, he added, that doesn't mean they speak for the more than 1 billion Muslims who reject the group's hateful ideology and violence.
"They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills in the name of Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism," he said. "No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism."
BEFORE YOU GO
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place