Obama says Muslims 'must confront' extremist ideology 'without excuse'

President Obama.
(Image credit: Pool/Getty Images)

On Sunday night, President Obama said that Muslims in the United States and around the world must "continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology of groups like [the Islamic State] and al Qaeda."

"We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam," he said during his address from the Oval Office. "That is what groups like [ISIS] want. [ISIS] does not speak for Islam; they are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than 1 billion Muslims around the world, including millions of patriotic Muslim-Americans who reject hateful ideology."

Obama said the killers behind last week's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California — which he called an "act of terrorism" — went down the "dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West." In order to defeat terrorism, Obama said the U.S. must "enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away in suspicion and hate. That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse."

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Muslim leaders must "speak out not just against acts of violence but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity." Muslims have the responsibility to "root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization," Obama said, but all Americans must "reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit to this country. It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans must somehow be treated differently 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 [ISIS]." Catherine Garcia

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.