President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the US State Department on Feb. 19, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Obama: War with Islam is an ‘ugly lie’


Obama blasted the so-called ‘war with Islam’ on Thursday, his strongest confrontation against critics on his anti-terror rhetoric yet.

“The notion the west is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” Obama said on the second day of the White House’s global summit on countering terrorism. “All of us have a responsibility to reject it.”

The remarks come as the president announces a website aimed at countering Islamic propaganda, part of a larger push by the administration to embrace moderate Islam as part of the fight against the Islamic State and other violent extremists.

Republican lawmakers and others have been pushing the president to declare war on radical Islam, arguing that it’s key to defining and identifying the enemy. Texas tea party darling Sen. Ted Cruz has said Obama’s become an “apologist for radical Islamic terrorists”; New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte said she thought the White House should spend less time “being politically correct” and “more time on a strategy to defeat them.” On Thursday’s New York Post cover, the president was depicted with a blindfold and the caption “I just don’t see it”.

But Obama has made clear he’s not giving in. On Wednesday he penned an Op-Ed arguing that declaring war on Islam is counterproductive.

“Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam,” Obama wrote. “We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam. We can help Muslim entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop social media tools to counter extremist narratives on the Internet.”

All In with Chris Hayes, 2/18/15, 8:19 PM ET

Why is Bill O'Reilly talking about 'holy war'?

Chris Hayes explains why framing the fight against ISIS as ‘holy war’ is not helpful.
Chris Hayes explains why framing the fight against ISIS as ‘holy war’ is not helpful.