Washington, Feb 19: President Barack Obama has said that America is "not at war with Islam" but with people who have perverted the religion, asserting that terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda do not speak for a billion Muslims who reject their extremist ideology.
Obama asked Western and Muslim leaders to unite to defeat the "false promises of extremism" and reject the notion that "terrorist" groups represent Islam, as he called for a focus on preventing "terrorists" from recruiting others.
"Al Qaeda and ISIL (ISIL) and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defence of Islam," he said.
"That's why ISIL presumes to declare itself the Islamic State and they propagate the notion that America, and the West generally, is at war with Islam. That's how they recruit. That's how they try to radicalise young people," he added.
"We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie, nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders; they're terrorists," Obama said during the second day of the three day conference, which is being attended by leaders from more than 60 countries, including India.
He said those outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict or modern life and Islam are in conflict.
"I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well. Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw selectively from the Islamic texts."
"They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations," Obama said.
"The terrorists do not speak for a billion Muslims," he told delegates in the wake of a string of brutal attacks in Europe and the Middle East.
"They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God, represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religious is responsible for terrorism; people are responsible for violence and terrorism," the US president asserted.
Insisting that there is need to speak up against violent extremism, he said, "Just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more than discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam. That there is inherent clash in civilizations."