US president says special forces are deployed to Syria to train rebels, not to fight on the front lines against ISIL.
The US must not let ISIL’s “cult of death” divide the nation and American Muslims need to be enlisted in the effort to eradicate the group instead of being pushed away with hate, President Barack Obama said.
In a rare televised speech to the American people on Sunday night, Obama linked last week’s deadly shooting rampage in California to the influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Analysts said the speech was meant to reassure the American public after a spate of deadly international attacks in recent months, including the California shooting that killed 14 people on Tuesday.
“As groups like ISIL grew stronger amid the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers,” Obama said.
According to recent polls, 57 percent of Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling the fight against ISIL, 72 percent say the effort is going badly, and 60 percent say it is time to send more troops into Iraq and Syria to battle the armed group.
Obama reiterated on Sunday that ISIL’s goal is to ignite a clash of cultures.
“We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want,” the president said.
“ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world – including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.
“Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies – rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.“
Adil Revzi, a Washington DC-based Muslim American, agreed with Obama’s direction.
“The basic thing is to make the world realise that the terrorism they are seeing – not only domestically and internationally – is not representative of Islam,” Revzi told Al Jazeera.
William Schneider, a public policy professor at George Mason University in Virginia, said Obama was attempting to show that his administration’s efforts against ISIL were bearing fruit.
“He did not have a great deal new to say about strategy and policy, but he was trying to tell Americans that our strategy is working. It [the policy] is going to be strong and it is going to be smart – not going to be rash,” Schneider told Al Jazeera.
“He was rejecting any kind of discrimination against Muslim Americans and Muslims generally, and said we were going to follow our own values.”
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