President Barack Obama concluded a three-day conference on combating violent extremism with comments that have sparked criticism that he is not recognizing the true nature of the threat.
In a closing speech
he said there was a complicated history between the Middle East and the West, "but the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie."
"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," Obama said.
But the president's refusal this week to link the threat of extremism to radical Islam has prompted a chorus of accusations that he is out of touch with the nature of the threat, The Hill
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"The president and this administration dogmatically refuses to utter the words radical Islamic terrorism," Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz said Wednesday night on Fox News' "The Kelly File."
"You cannot defeat an enemy if you refuse to acknowledge what it is," Cruz added.
Republicans were not the only ones to criticize the president.
"If you look at this broad focus on countering violent extremism, which is very hard to define, it's a diversion away from the actual threat coming from this radical Islamic ideology that exists," Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs panels, said on CNN's "The Situation Room" earlier this week.
"It's so important that we recognize that these people are being motivated by a spiritual, theological motivation, which is this radical Islamic ideology," she said.
The White House has defended the president's remarks, with Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying the administration is "very mindful of the fact that a particularly virulent strain of extremist ideology has tried to insert itself in the Muslim community," The Hill reported.
Earnest refused to say that the terror threat was militant or related to radical Islam, saying the terrorist groups do not represent the true fabric of Islam, The Hill said.
Others have defended the White House's approach.
"The fear is that once you begin to demonize Islam and Muslims, you get 1.5 billion people out there that aren't too happy about that," Peter Fenn, a Democratic strategist, told The Hill.
"The fastest way to move people into becoming radicals and terrorists is for the 'great American president' to come out swinging, so I think this shows an important amount of restraint."
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