President Obama sought Thursday to rally world leaders behind his push to stop extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), while doubling down on terminology that has sparked fierce criticism from conservatives.
"The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie. And all of us, regardless of faith, have a responsibility to reject it,” Obama said during a speech at the State Department to representatives from more than 60 countries.
The speech largely echoed a keynote address the president gave on Wednesday to the White House’s Summit on Countering Violent Extremism where he defended his administration’s refusal to say the U.S. is at war with Islam.
And for the second straight day, his remarks drew swift fire from the Republicans.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Bob Dole: A great leader of the 'Greatest Generation' The bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns MORE (R-Ariz.) responded to Obama’s “lie” comment in a tweet.
“The notion that radical Islam isn't at war with the West is an ugly lie,” he said.
Obama looked to move beyond the fight over how to define the enemy, charging that the world must remain “unwavering” in the fight against terrorist groups like ISIS and promising that the U.S. “will not relent” in its campaign to eradicate the organization that still controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
"We all have a responsibility to ensure the security, the prosperity and the human rights of our citizens," Obama said. "We are here today because we are united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism."
He also urged nations to break the “cycles of conflict,” especially sectarian conflict that have become “magnets” for extremists, citing the years-long civil war in Syria
Obama again called on nations to “address the grievances that terrorists exploit," such as poverty, government corruption, religious crackdowns and lack of education.
He urged more dialogue, not just across countries and faith, but within them as well.
"Let us share the truth of our faiths,” Obama told the audience.
He skewered “the existing news cycle” that can “give a very distorted impression” of Muslims and said a “painful truth” was that the Muslim community in many countries was not large enough for someone to know a person of that faith.
“Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL peddle the lie that some of our countries are hostile to Muslims,” but he said “we can’t allow cycles of suspicion to tear at the fabric of our cultures.”
"We come from different countries and different cultures and different faiths … [but] we are all in the same boat,” Obama said. “We have to help each other to get out of this crisis."