Barack Obama
Barack Obama

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that they would be playing right into the hands of extremists if they blamed Islam for recent terrorist attacks.

In a radio address to the nation, President Obama reminded US citizens it were groups like the militant Islamic State (IS) who were depicting the fight against terrorism as a war between Islam and the West.

“Terrorists like IS are trying to divide us along lines of religion and background. That’s how they stoke fear. That’s how they recruit,” he warned.

This was President Obama’s third address to his nation since last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in which 14 Americans were killed. In every speech, Mr Obama urged the West, as well as the Muslim world, not to allow the extremists to turn this into a religious war, as doing so would hurt all.

“And just as Muslims around the world have to keep rejecting any twisted interpretation of Islam, all of us have to reject bigotry — in all of its forms,” he said. “I’ll say it again, prejudice and discrimination helps IS and it undermines our national security.”

Terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and in Paris, last month, have increased anti-Muslim feelings in the West.

But President Obama pointed out that Americans across the political spectrum — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — were also standing up, forcefully, to religious bigotry.

“Churches and synagogues are reaching out to local mosques — reminding us that we are all God’s children,” he said. “Grateful citizens are saying thank you to our patriotic Muslim American service members and veterans.”

He also noted that some of America’s greatest sports heroes — including boxing champion Mohammed Ali — had condemned those who were fanning religious bigotry.

‘Across the country, Americans are reaching out to their Muslim friends, neighbours and co-workers to let them know we’re here for each other,” he said.

Mr Obama noted that at a recent rally in Texas a woman was carrying a sign saying, “We love our Muslim neighbors.”

“That’s the message I hope every Muslim American hears — that we’re all part of the same American family,” he said. “It’s a message all of us can deliver — parents to our children, teachers to their students, leaders in politics and business and entertainment.”

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2015

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