Why President Obama won’t use the term ‘radical Islam’

(ABC News) — Donald Trump is blasting President Obama for not using the words “radical Islam” to describe the Orlando shooting, calling on the president to resign for not using the two words.

While the president has labeled the weekend attack on an Orlando nightclub that killed at least 49 people an “act of terror and an act of hate,” a look at the president’s past comments surrounding terrorism indicates that the president actively avoids the term “radical Islamic terrorism” and isn’t likely to change course due to Mr. Trump’s demand.

The president has sought to make a clear distinction between Islam as a religion built on peaceful precepts and the acts of terror carried out by extremist who adhere to radical interpretations of the religion.

“We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” the president said at a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last February.

To directly associate the terrorism with the religion of Islam, the president has contended, would only lend legitimacy to the terrorists’ agenda to cast the West as being at war with Islam.

“They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam,” the president said in the same speech. “We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists.”

While the president has been careful to keep up the distinction, it was actually a premise first laid out by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, in the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil,” President Bush said in September 2001.

The explanation for not using “radical Islamic terrorism” can also be applied to the president’s decision to refer to ISIS, sometimes referred to as the “Islamic State,” as ISIL — as another means to deny legitimacy to the terrorist group by not using its terminology of choice.

“ISIL is not ‘Islamic,’” the president said in September 2014. “And ISIL is certainly not a state.”

“It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple,” the president went on to say.

Trump has similarly criticized his Hillary Clinton, who like Obama does not use the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” for her decision not to use the phrase and called on her to drop out of the race for not using it. Clinton has brushed off Trump’s criticism.

“Trump as usual is obsessed with name calling, and from my perspective it matters what we do, not what we say,” Clinton said in an interview with NBC on Monday. “It matters that we got [Osama] bin Laden, not what name we called him.”


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