In an address delivered from the White House Oval Office, President Obama on Sunday condemned radical terrorists and ISIS, calling the group “thugs and killers” with a “perverted interpretation of Islam.”
The president also urged the nation to stand in unity with Muslim Americans, who in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings — which were praised by ISIS — have faced extreme backlash for their religion.
The Washington Post reports:
“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,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group. “ISIL does not speak for Islam,” he said. “They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death.”
Obama spoke of the need for tolerance, emphasizing that “millions of patriotic Muslim Americans” reject the ideology of radical terrorists.
“Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim,” he said. “We must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than pushing them away through suspicion and hate.”
In his address, the first from the Oval Office in a number of years, the president also said the nation must “reject proposals” that Muslim Americans should be treated differently — a comment that comes nearly two weeks after presidential hopeful Donald Trump indicated he wanted a registry for all Muslims in the country.
“It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently,” he said. “Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.”
Obama’s address falls in line with remarks made by Attorney General Loretta Lynch just days prior, in which she offered support to a group of Muslim Americans, ensuring she would fight for their rights to expand and build mosques, the Post reports.
While many praised the president for his outright support of Islam in a national climate that, in many cases, fuels Islamophobia, others weren’t so impressed.
Dawud Walid, a Muslim activist with the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan, gave Obama’s speech a C-plus in a comment on Facebook:
“He talked about terrorism as if it is a Muslim only thing. He spoke as if Muslim leaders haven’t always condemned terrorism,” Walid wrote. “His statement about citizens not being able to buy guns on the no-fly list is problematic in terms of lack of due process, plus raising that point had nothing to do with San Bernardino.”
You can view the president’s full address here.