President Obama told a town hall forum of military and family members Wednesday that he wouldn’t use the term Christian terrorism if a Christian committed terrorist acts, so that’s one reason why he eschews using Islamic terrorism.
Obama was asked by a Gold Star mother whose son was killed in Baghdad in 2007 if he believes that terrorism has “Islamic religious motives” and why he won’t say “Islamic terrorist.”
The president called it “an issue that has been sort of manufactured, because there is no doubt — and I’ve said repeatedly — that where we see terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda or ISIL, they have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse for basically barbarism and death.”
“These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves. There’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do,” he added at the Fort Lee, Va., CNN event.
“But what I have been careful about when I describe these issues is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful, who are responsible, who in this country are our fellow troops and police officers and firefighters and teachers and neighbors and friends.”
Obama told the mother that what he “learned from listening to some of these Muslim families both in the United States and overseas is that when you start calling these organizations ‘Islamic terrorists,’ the way it’s heard, the way it’s received by our friends and allies around the world is that somehow Islam is terroristic.”
“And that then makes them feel as if they’re under attack. In some cases, it makes it harder for us to get their cooperation in fighting terrorism,” he continued.
“So do I think that if somebody uses the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ that it’s a huge deal? No. There’s no doubt that these folks think that — and claim that they’re speaking for Islam. But I don’t want to validate what they do. I don’t want to — if you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, ‘We’re on the vanguard of Christianity,’ well, I’m not — as a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say, ‘You’re killing for Christ.’ I would say that’s ridiculous. That’s not what my religion stands for.”
Obama said he’s going to “call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists.”
“And that’s what we’ve been trying to do, is to make sure that, A, we don’t validate their claims that somehow they speak for Islam, because they don’t, and, B, making sure that we do not make Muslims who are well-meaning and our natural allies on this fight — because these groups are killing more Muslims than they’re killing anybody else — make sure that they don’t feel as if somehow that this is some contest between the West and Islam,” he said.
“And I think that — I’ll just be honest with you — the dangers where we get loose in this language, particularly when a president or people aspiring to become president get loose with this language, you can see in some of the language that we use — in talking about Muslim-Americans here, and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests in who can come in the country, and who’s investigated, and whether the Bill of Rights applies to them in the same way.”
The president called that “a slippery slope.”
“And the way we’re going to win this battle is not by betraying our ideals. It’s by making sure that we hold true to our ideals. And one of our core ideals is that, if you’re an American and you are subscribing to the ideals and the creed and the values that we believe in as a country, then we don’t have a religious test in this country,” Obama said.
He emphasized that his criticism was “not unique to the Republican nominee.”
“And, again, I’m trying to be careful. We’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this,” he added. “I think that there have been a number of public figures, where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous, because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans.”
“When I go to Arlington Cemetery, mostly I see crosses. Sometimes I see stars of David. And sometimes I see Islamic crescents. And those families are just as proud regardless of their religion that a member of their family who they love just as much as anybody sacrificed for this country. And I want to make sure that we as a nation stay unified because that’s how we’re going to achieve our missions.”