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US not at war with peace loving Islam, says Obama

September 11, 2010 00:35 IST

On the eve of the ninth anniversary of the 9/11, President Barack Obama said that America is not at war with Islam, but against "a handful of tiny minority" who have distorted the preachings of this great religion.

Asserting that the majority of the Muslims across the world are peace loving and do not support extremist ideologies, Obama said the US is at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam.

"We were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts," Obama said in response to a question at his White House press conference on Friday.

"We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organisations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts. He underlined the need for allies to successfully reduce the terror threat.

"We've got to be clear about that, because...if we're going to successfully reduce the terror threat, then we need all the allies we can get," Obama said. "The folks who are most interested in a war between the United States or the West and Islam are al-Qaeda. That's what they've been banking on," he said.

He said the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are peace-loving and interested in the same things that "you and I are interested in. How do I make sure I can get a good job, how can I make sure that my kids get a decent education, how can I make sure I'm safe, how can I improve my lot in life."

"And so they have rejected this violent ideology for the most part, overwhelmingly," Obama said. He said it was necessary to be clear about "who the enemy is here".

"So from a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It's a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts and have killed Muslims more than anybody else," Obama said.

In fact, Obama praised his predecessor, George W Bush, in this regard. "One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was, after 9/11, him being crystal clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam," he said.

"We were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts," Obama noted.

Obama said the country stands "together against those who would try to do us harm".

"I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion: that we are not going to be divided by religion; we're not going to be divided by ethnicity; we are all Americans; we stand together against those who would try to do us harm," the President told the American people.

"That's what the US has done over the last nine years. We should take great pride in that," he said. He said it is absolutely important for the American people to know who our enemies are.

"Our enemies are al-Qaeda and their allies, who are trying to kill us but have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on Earth," Obama said. The US President said it is important for the Americans to remember the large Muslim population in the country.

"They're going to school with our kids. They're our neighbours. They're our friends. They're our co-workers," he said, adding "I've got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan, in the uniform of the United States armed services".

"And we've got to make sure that we are crystal clear for our sakes and their sakes: They are Americans. And we honour their service," Obama said, adding "Part of honouring their service is making sure that they understand that we don't differentiate between 'them' and 'us'".

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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