After months of delays and weeks of internal and external discord surrounding the White House’s Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, President Barack Obama finally got to tell officials from more than 60 countries that terrorism, not Islam, is the enemy.
“We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” Obama said Wednesday, the second day of the summit. He later called on Muslim leaders “to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam.”
Obama’s sentiments were welcomed by the audience, which politely applauded throughout his speech. But they did little to overshadow the controversy surrounding the buildup to the summit or the fact that not much is expected from the three-day event.
The White House has taken heat from all sides in the run-up to the summit. Within the administration there was discord because the White House waited until Jan. 11 to tell the State Department it would be participating. Muslim leaders criticized the White House for focusing narrowly on threats from Islamists. Meanwhile, Republicans blasted the administration for approaching the threat too broadly and called on it to focus on threats from Muslim extremists.