US President Barack Obama has reiterated his call for the world “to stand up to violent extremism”, saying that violent groups peddle a lie that there is a clash of civilisations.
Obama said on Thursday that there was a complicated history between the Middle East and the West and no one should be immune from criticism over specific policies.
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“But the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” he said. “And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it,” he told a three-day conference at a White House summit on so-called violent extremism.
“Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilisations,” the US president said.
Obama said that the US will continue the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia a day after he said that those fighting for ISIL and al-Qaeda were not religious leaders, but “terrorists”.
“We are united against scourge of violent extremism and terrorism. As we speak, ISIL is terrorising people of Syria and Iraq, involved in wanton murder of children, enslavement and rape of women and beheading of hostages,” he said.
In his speech, Obama pledged that “in Iraq and Syria, our coalition of some 60 nations, including Arab nations, will not relent in our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL”, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant by its acronym.
Obama asked Middle Eastern countries to stop actions that he claimed have stoked the rise of ISIL, al-Qaeda and others.
Fighting between Sunnis and Shia “will only end when major powers address their differences through dialogue and not through proxy wars”, he said.
Syria and Iraq blamed
Obama blamed the governments of Syria and Iraq for the emergence of ISIL.
“In Iraq, the failure of the previous government to govern in an inclusive manner helped to pave the way for ISIL’s gains there,” he said.
In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s “war against his own people and deliberate stoking of sectarian tensions help to fuel the rise of ISIL”, he said.
During the summit’s closing session at the State Department, Obama urged delegate to “confront the warped ideology” espoused by armed groups.
“These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy and all us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative,” Obama said.
He urged Arab countries in particular to take steps to quell sectarian violence and boost economic and educational opportunities for young people susceptible to recruitment by armed groups.
Obama also announced the creation of a joint digital monitoring centre with the UAE.