Extremist groups like Islamic State do not represent real people of faith, President Obama said yesterday, insisting that "violent extremism" is not linked to true Islam.
Speaking to delegates at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, Obama said: "We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."
"No religion is responsible for terrorism – people are responsible for violence and terrorism," he added.
Obama has been reticent to refer to the rise of terrorism as a battle against Islam. Ahead of the conference in Washington a senior White House official told reporters: "You can call them what you want; we are calling them terrorists. We are not treating these people [as] part of a religion."
At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, the President branded IS a "brutal, vicious death cult" that has hijacked religion as an excuse to perpetuate violence. He accused ISIS of "betraying" the faith by carrying out barbaric acts, saying "No god condones terror".
Yesterday, he said extremists radicalise young people by propagating the idea that America, and the west in general, are at war with Islam, while in truth Muslims are "succeeding and thriving in America".
"Just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like [IS] genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam," Obama said.
"Of course that's the story extremists and terrorists don't want the world to know: Muslims succeeding and thriving in America. Because when that truth is known it exposes their propaganda as the lie that it is."
Terrorists are not representative, and do not speak for, over a billion Muslims across the globe, the President added. Western and Muslim leaders must unite to defeat the "false promises of extremism".
"If we're going to prevent people from being [radicalised] ...then the international community has to offer something better and the United States intends to do its part."
The President has been accused by evangelist Franklin Graham of being soft on Islam. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Graham criticised Obama for failing to "acknowledge the truth and call Islamic extremism what it is."
"Why is the President seemingly continuing to protect Islam and refusing to open his eyes to the truth?" he asked.