During Wednesday’s Presidential Town Hall on CNN, President Obama was asked by Gold Star mother Tina Houchins why he doesn’t use the term “Islamic terrorist,” which Obama stated was a “sort of manufactured” issue before outlining the reasons why he doesn’t use the term.
Houchins asked, “As a Gold Star mother, my son gave his life for acts of terrorism. Do you still believe that the acts of terrorism are done with a self-proclaimed Islamic religious motives? And if you do, why do you refuse to use the term racially — I’m sorry, ‘Islamic terrorist?’”
Obama responded, after thanking Houchins for her son’s service and praising Gold Star parents, “[T]he truth of the matter is is that this is an issue that has been sort of manufactured, because, there is no doubt, and I’ve said repeatedly, that, where we see terrorist organizations like al Qaeda or ISIL, they have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse for basically, barbarism and death. These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves. There’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do. But, what I have been careful about, when I describe these issues, is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful, who are responsible, who, in this country, are fellow troops and police officers and firefighters and teachers and neighbors and friends. And what I learned from listening to some of these Muslim families, both in the United States and overseas, is that when you start calling these organizations Islamic terrorists, the way it’s heard, the way it’s received by our friends and allies around the world is that somehow Islam is terroristic, and that then makes them feel as if they’re under attack. In some cases, it makes it harder for us to get their cooperation in fighting terrorism. So, do I think that if somebody uses the phrase, ‘Islam terrorism,’ that it’s a huge deal, no. There is no doubt that these folks think, that — and claim that they’re speaking for Islam, but I don’t want to validate what they do.”
He continued, “I don’t want to — if you had a — an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up, and said, we’re on the vanguard of Christianity, well, I’m not going — as a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say you’re killing for Christ. I would say that’s ridiculous. That’s not what my religion stands for. Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists.”
Obama further stated, “I think that, I’ll just be honest with you, the danger is where we get loose in this language, particularly when a president — or people aspiring to get — become president get loose with this language. You can see in some of the language that we’ve been talking about Muslim-Americans here, and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests, and who can come in the country and who’s investigated and whether the Bill of Rights applies to them in the same way. And that’s a slippery slope. And the way we’re going to win this battle is not by betraying our ideals. It’s by making sure that we hold true to our ideals, and one of our core ideals is that, if you’re an American, and you are subscribing to the ideals and the creed and the values that we believe in as a country, then, we don’t have a religious test in this country.”
After host Jake Tapper said Obama was “clearly” talking about GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Obama stated, “No, I wasn’t.” A line that drew some laughter from the audience. He added, “I would just say this, Jake…it’s not unique to the Republican nominee. And again, I’m trying to be careful, we’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this. I think that there have been a number of public figures, where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous, because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans. When I go to Arlington Cemetery, mostly I see crosses, sometimes, I see Stars of David, and sometimes I see Islamic crescents. And those families, are just as proud, regardless of their religion, that a member of their family, who they love, just as much as anybody, sacrificed for this country. And i want to make sure that, we as a nation, stay unified. Because that’s how we’re going to achieve our missions.”