Obama: ‘There’s No Magic to the Phrase Radical Islam’

Melanie Arter | June 14, 2016 | 1:34pm EDT
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President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama rejected calls Tuesday for him to use the phrase “radical Islam” when talking about the war on terrorism, calling it “a political talking point” and “not a strategy.”

“There’s no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy, and the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism,” Obama said in reaction to criticism by Republicans and notably presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.



“For a while now, the main contribution for some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase radical Islam. That’s the key they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists,” Obama said in a White House press conference on U.S. operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above,” he said.

“Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away,” Obama said, calling it “a political distraction.”

“Since before I was president, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions,” he said.

“There’s not been a moment in my seven and a half years as president where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label radical Islam. Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.’ Not once,” the president added.

“So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we’re fighting? If there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who are enemies are, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield,” Obama said.

“If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around the world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taken the fight seriously, that’d come as a surprise to those who’ve spent the last seven and a half years dismantling al Qaeda,” he said, as well as to “the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the Special Forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria.”

“They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spent countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans, including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows,” Obama said.

“They know who the nature of the enemy is, so there’s no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy, and the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism,” the president said.

“Groups like ISIL and al Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions,” Obama said.

“They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda. That’s how they recruit, and if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them,” the president said.

Obama said the argument about labels has been mostly “partisan rhetoric” until now, “and sadly, we’ve all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups, and that kind of yappin’ has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing, working really hard to protect the American people.

“But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mindset and this kind of thinking can be. We’re starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we’re fighting, where this can lead us,” he said.

“We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence,” Obama said.

“Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, they were all us citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?” Obama asked.

“We’ve heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe. It will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making young Muslims in this country and around the world feel like no matter what they do they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack,” the president said.

“It makes Muslim Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for. We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history,” Obama said.

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