WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Muslim leaders have a responsibility to push back against twisted interpretations of Islam.
This is day two of a White House conference on extremism. The president declined to label al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "Islamic terrorists," and he's taking some heat from critics.
"The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie," said Obama. "And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it."
At a White House conference on violent extremism, Mr. Obama appeared to take pains to separate Islam from terrorism.
Critics fault the president for not labeling the terror Islamic, and at a private Republican gathering in New York Wednesday night, former mayor Rudy Giuliani went even further.
"I do not believe that the president loves America. What's wrong with this man," asked Giuliani, "that he can't stand up and say there's a part of Islam that's sick?"
But the president has called on Muslims to actively reject extremism.
"Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back, not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations," he said.
And President George W. Bush walked the same line immediately following the 9/11 attacks.
"The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself."
White House aides say the reason Mr. Obama won't refer to violence by Muslims as "Islamic terrorism" is that he wants to deny them the ability to call the clash a religious war.