WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the Muslim extremists comprising the Islamic State are neither religious nor represent Islam but rather are terrorists “desperate to obtain legitimacy.”
The president, who inaugurated the international summit against extremist violence at the White House, expressed his gratitude for the world’s “impressive response” to the IS, which has gained control broad swaths of Syria and Iraq and has attracted more than 20,000 foreign fighters to its ranks.
“We are here at this summit because of the urgent threat from groups like al Qaeda and ISIL and this week, we are focused on prevention,” Obama said.
More than 50 countries since Tuesday have been participating in the summit in Washington and on Thursday many foreign and interior ministers will be on hand to share experiences of integration, education and police coordination in battling extremists.
The U.S. president said that the most important resources in the fight against extremism are the communities in which terrorists try to recruit new members, taking advantage of economic problems or problems of social integration.
Obama said that poverty alone does not make someone become a terrorist, but when young people have no hope or future, their resentment and the risk of extremism grow.
The White House, which has attempted to avoid linking extremism to Islam because it feels that groups like the IS operate counter to the Muslim faith, said that “more democracy, more institutions and more freedoms” can help to counter the extremist viewpoints of these movements.
Participating in the summit are also members of civil society and Muslim associations in the United States.
Obama went on to say in his address to the conference that people who have learned of the hypocrisy of the Islamic State, including former extremists, need to raise their voices against it and tell people that it is not a revolution but rather a massacre.
Countering extremism cannot be done exclusively by military means, said the president, but rather the ideology and the structure that sustain it must be eliminated.