J.Post/Clash of civilizations mindset is real in Muslim world, Obama says


 Clash of civilizations mindset is real in Muslim world, Obama says
By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/02/19/2015

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is defending his policy against tying Islam to the scourge of terror gripping the Middle East.

Speaking to a summit on countering violent extremism at the White House, Obama said that the United States is not fighting the Islamic faith, but rather finds itself at war “with the people who have perverted Islam.”

“Religion is not responsible for violence and terrorism,” he told the conference. “People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

At the annual National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, Obama raised eyebrows comparing the specter of the Crusades, slavery and Jim Crow to the twisted ideology of Islamic State, or ISIL, a group “desperate for legitimacy,” he explained on Wednesday.

“They propagate the notion that America, and the West generally, is at war with Islam,” Obama said, explaining the policy. “That’s how they recruit. That’s how they try to radicalize young people.”

At the same time, Obama acknowledged a “narrative” that he says is all too real across the Muslim world, often perpetuated by its leadership: “The notion that our nations are at odds with Islam, that there’s an inevitable clash of civilizations.”

“Just as those of us 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,” Obama said. “There’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances— sometimes that’s accurate— does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy.”

The president called on leaders across the Arab world to “discredit” that narrative, in which “historic grievances” against the West manifest, sometimes, in radicalization.

The summit, hosted by the US and attended by delegations from over 60 nations, continues tomorrow at the ministerial level at the Department of State. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, among other world leaders, will attend.

The event included break-out sessions and events with Vice President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State John Kerry and the rest of the president’s national security team.

In his keynote, the president acknowledged a significant military element would be required in a global fight against al Qaeda and Islamic State. But much of the fight will also be waged online, he said.

Explaining his view on the roots of such extremist tendencies, Obama blamed a host of factors that contribute to a “void” in the lives of youth.

“When there are no outlets where people can express their grievances, resentments fester,” he said, but adding: “Poverty alone does not cause someone to become a terrorist, any more than poverty causes someone to become a criminal.”