Obama disturbed at political rhetoric against Muslims: White House

Washington: President Barack Obama is deeply disturbed at some of the “political rhetoric” directed against the Muslim community in the US in the aftermath of the California mass shooting that killed 14 people, a presidential spokesman said today.

Any effort to marginalise the highly patriotic Muslim community in the US would only help the narrative of terrorist organisations like Islamic State and al-Qaeda, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

“The president has been disturbed at a lot of the political rhetoric that we’ve seen directed at Muslims. And the president has spoken about that I think quite forcefully over the last couple of weeks,” Earnest said.

“At the same time, I think the President is confident that the vast majority of Americans understand this core principle that people aren’t targeted for violence based on their religious beliefs. That is a core value of our country. That is a value that is worth defending. It is also a value that is broadly shared by just about every American,” he asserted.

Earnest was responding to questions on fear of a backlash among the Muslim community after the California shooting.

“If there are some specific steps that need to be taken to protect a mosque against a specific threat, I have total confidence that local law enforcement is committed to that effort. And if they need the support of the federal government, I’m sure that they will receive it,” he noted.

“But it has been instrumental to our efforts against groups like al-Qaeda and IS and other terrorist organisations to make clear that the United States is at war with those organisations, but we’re not at war with Islam. We’re not at war with Muslims around the world,” he asserted.

Earnest said Obama has expressed his concern about some of the grossly irresponsible and in some cases outright bigoted political rhetoric heard over the last several weeks.

Obama, he said does not believe, importantly, that that makes the country safer.

“In fact, President George W Bush was somebody who keenly understood that targeting Muslims or somehow marginalising them only advances the narratives of our enemies. And that’s why President George W Bush went out of his way to make it clear that the United States and the West are not at war with Islam,” he noted.

He said the US is at war with extremists who are trying to capitalise on some vulnerable populations, including many Muslims, to try to inspire them to carry out acts of violence.

“What’s clear is that the United States, the American people and the American government need to work with the millions of patriotic Muslim Americans in this country to make our country safer, and to make it harder, if not outright prevent extremist organisations from radicalising vulnerable members of their community,” the White House spokesman said.

“That is something that we’ve been focused on for quite some time. It’s very challenging work, but it’s something that has attracted a lot of attention,” he observed.