‘A betrayal of all our faiths’

President Obama speaks at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. (© AP Images)

“We are not at war with Islam,” President Obama told local, federal and international leaders at a three-day global summit.  “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Speaking February 18 at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the president stressed that the United States is not in a conflict with any religion.

Violent extremism does not belong to any particular religion, Obama said. Acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths and by people of different faiths.

“Which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths,” Obama added. “It’s not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time.”

Obama said tackling violent extremism requires more than a focus on the terrorists who commit violence. “We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists — the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence,” Obama said.

At the summit, civil society and government leaders from more than 60 countries are sharing ideas on community-based programs to counter extremism.

When youth in many countries face a bleak future, corruption is widespread, and there are no outlets to express concerns, resentments fester, Obama said. And when governments stifle dissent or marginalize certain groups, communities become more susceptible to terrorist recruitment.

“So the essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress is not less democracy, it’s more democracy,” Obama said. “It’s institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally.”

During the summit, Secretary of State John Kerry said many different segments of society have a role in countering violent extremism.

“We have to look to the private sector as the primary generators of opportunity,” Kerry said. “And we have to turn for help to foundations and philanthropists, and we have to make certain that civil society is able to operate freely and without fear.”