President Obama sat down for a CNN town hall on the military on Wednesday and was challenged by a Gold Star mother to explain why he was so reluctant to use certain terminology.
“My son gave his life for acts of terrorism,” said Tina Houchins. “Do you still believe that the acts of terrorism are done for the self-proclaimed Islamic religious motive? And if you do, why do you still refuse to use the term ‘Islamic terrorist?'”
Obama said that he considered the debate over terrorist terms to be a “manufactured” issue.
“There is no doubt, and I’ve said repeatedly, 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,” he said. “These are people who’ve killed children, killed Muslims, take sex slaves, there’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do.”
Obama said that he was cautious with terminology to avoid offending peaceful adherents to the religion.
“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 are fellow troops and police officers and fire fighters and teachers and neighbors and friends,” he said.
Obama then used an analogy certain to strike some as irritating.
“If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, ‘We’re on the vanguard of Christianity,'” he said. “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.”
This isn’t the first time Obama has addressed his refusal to call these terrorists what they are. Shortly after the San Bernardino shootings, he went out of his way to draw attention away from ISIS and Islam and onto gun control. After the Orlando massacre, his Justice Department deliberately censored police department transcripts to downplay Omar Mateen’s Islamic motivations. And after being called out by Donald Trump this summer, Obama went before the country to specifically defend his use of vague terms like “radical extremism,” using the same basic logic he used on Wednesday.
It’s helpful to make the distinction between the kind of Muslims who kill for ISIS and the kind who don’t have anything to do with that sort of ideology, and President George W. Bush did a fine job of it. Obama has gone well beyond that point. He’s trying to sell us on the idea that Islamic terrorism and Islam are two entirely separate things, and that’s just not true. That’s propaganda.