September 10th, 2010
01:06 PM ET

Obama: 'We are not at war against Islam'

[Updated at 12:25 p.m.] President Obama was asked about his thoughts on the Islamic center being built near ground zero in New York.

"All men and women are created equal, they have certain inalienable rights, and one of those is to practice their religion freely," Obama said. "You can build a church on a site, you can build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, you should be able to build a mosque."

Obama said he recognized the sensitivity in the area because of the 9/11 attacks and acknowledges that family members are continuing to experience pain and anguish over their losses.

However, he urged people to remember who our real enemies are.

"We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam," Obama said. "If we're going to deal with the problems Ed Henry was talking about - reducing the terrorist threat - we need all the allies we can get."

Obama pressed that in fact, the anti-Islam sentiment and a war between the West and Islam is exactly what terrorist organizations are hoping for.

"Al Qaeda,  that's what they've been banking on," Obama said. "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving - are interested in the same things that you and I are interested in."

Obama stressed it is important that Americans do not believe the entire religion of Islam is offensive.

iReport: Share your thoughts on controversy surrounding Islamic Center

For more on Obama's question-and-answer session and analysis check out CNN's Political Ticker.

CNN analysts weigh in

[Updated at 12:17 p.m.] CNN's Ed Henry asked President Barack Obama whether he still agrees with his statement that it is crititical to capture Osama bin Laden and if he views it a failure that he hasn't been captured, despite Obama's promise to run a smarter war on terrorism than President Bush.

"I think capturing or killing bin Laden ... would be extremely important to national security," he said. "It doesn't solve all of our problems, but it is a high priority for our administration."

Obama touted success in forcing members of al Qaeda to retreat because of ramped up pressure on its leaders.

"They have been holed up in ways that have made it harder for them to operate - and part of what's happening is bin Laden has gone deeper underground," Obama said. "We have the best minds, the best intelligence officers, the best special forces who are thinking about this day and night, and they will continue to think about it day and night as long as I'm president."

[Updated at 12:07 p.m.] Obama said that although he has missed the deadline to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, "it is not for lack of trying."

"It's because of politics," he said.

He insisted that he believes the U.S. justice system is capable of handling procedures involving terrorist suspects and that military tribunals are not necessary.

"I am absolutely convinced that the American justice system is strong enough, that we should be able to convict people who murdered innocent Americans and that carried out terrorist attacks against us," he said. "We should be able to lock them up and make sure they don't see the light of day. We can do that, and we've done it before."

[Updated at 12:00 p.m.] Obama acknowledged that the looming expiration of Israel's moratorium on settlement construction is a "major bone of contention."

The internal politic pressures for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this issue "are very difficult," Obama said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu have to figure out "how to help each other succeed," he added.

[Updated at 11:58 a.m.] Obama was asked about levels of corruption within the Afghanistan government and what is being done to curtail it.

"We are in the midst of a very difficult but very important project. I just want to remind people why we're there, the day before September 11. We're there because that was the place where al Qaeda launched an attack that killed 3,000 Americans. And we want to make sure we dismantle al Qaeda and that Afghanistan is never again used as a base for attacks against Americans and the American homeland."

Obama asked people to remember that Afghanistan is the second poorest country in the world and that change won't happen overnight, but his administration is working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama criticized former President George W. Bush's administration for failing to provide adequate training of Afghan military forces.

"After seven years of policies in which we weren't even effectively training security forces, we're saying we're going to work with the Afghan government so they can be responsible for their own security. We're going to promote a political settlement in the region that can help to reduce the violence. We're going to encourage an Afghan government that can deliver services for its people."

He insisted that progress has been made in terms of rooting out corruption from the government in Kabul, but "we're a long way from where we need to be on that," he said.

The White House will continue to pressure Karzai on the issue of corruption, Obama said.

[Updated at 11:52 a.m.] Obama said that a proposed settlement for black farmers - who have historically been the target of racial discrimination by the federal government - is "fair" and "just."

The White House will continue to make funding of the settlement - now blocked in the Senate - "a priority," he said.

[Updated at 11:51 a.m.] Obama insisted Friday that skyrocketing medical costs will ultimately decline as more people are covered due to his administration's health care reform initiative.

[Updated at 11:44 a.m.] Obama was asked about Pastor Terry Jones in Florida, who had plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and whether he was concerned that by having the secretary of defense call him, it was actually elevating his platform.

"The idea that we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It's contrary to what this nation was founded on. My hope is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it," Obama said. "But I'm also commander in chief, and we are seeing today riots in Kabul, riots in Afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform, and so we have an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our men and women in danger."

Obama said he doesn't think his administration is what elevated this story, but "in the age of the internet, this is something that can cause us profound damage."

"It's also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al Qaeda," he said. "We don't start having a bunch of folks all across the country think this is how to get attention. This is a way of endangering our troops. You don't play games with that."

[Updated at 11:40 a.m.] Obama conceded Friday that there are "enormous hurdles" to the new Middle East peace talks. His administration understood that "it was a risk for us to promote these discussions, but it is a risk worth taking," he

It is in the interests of America, the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a comprehensive settlement, Obama said. The issue of Middle East peace must be dealt with if, among other things, Israel is to remain both Jewish and Democratic, Obama said.  A settlement would also help the United States deal with Iran.

"If these talks break down, we're going to keep on trying," he said.

[Updated at 11:34 a.m.] Obama was asked about why he believes that nine years after the attacks on September 11, 2001, there is now a growing suspicion and resentment of Islam.

"I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally, and gone through a tough time, then you know fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society, and so I think that plays a role," Obama said.

Obama then praised former President George W. Bush for his specific rhetoric on religion following the attacks.

"One of the things I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam, we were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam ... to carry out their acts."

Obama said he was proud the country had rallied around the idea that we can't be divided because of religion or ethnicity - and hopes that is something that can continue.

"We are all Americans, we stand together," Obama said. "I think it is absolutely important now for majority of Americans to hang onto that thing that is best in us: a belief in religious tolerance. We have to make sure we don't start turning on each other."

"We are one nation under God. We may call that God different names, but we are one nation."

[Updated at 11:32 a.m.] Obama said Friday that one of the reasons he hasn't created a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington is because some GOP leaders decided when he took office that "we're going to sit on the sidelines and let the Democrats solve" the economic crisis.

Taking on tough issues with entrenched special interests creates "a lot of big fights," he said.

[Updated at 11:25 a.m.] Obama deflected a question Friday about whether his new economic plans should be referred to as another "stimulus" package. "Everything we've been trying to do is designed to stimulate growth," he said.  "I have no problem with people saying the president is trying" to do that.

He was then asked about several pending Senate nominations - including judges and Homeland Security officials.

"I'm concerned about all Senate nominations these days," he said, noting he wasn't making a joke. "I've got people who have been waiting for six months to get confirmed that nobody has an official objection to ... and I can't get a vote on them."

Obama said it was frustrating when "you've got a determined minority" that is attempting to filibuster all of his nominations.

"They're just playing games," he said.

[Updated at 11:20 a.m.] President Obama was asked about why he waited so long to introduce his latest economic policies and if they are merely being used as a political weapon for the election season.

"We have this notion that we waited until now, but just on the small business issue alone, we have cut taxes for small businesses eight times," Obama said. "So we are hardly Johnny-come-latelys on this issue."

Obama touted a variety of  policy successes as the reason the economy is better than it was when he took office.

"When you put all the things we did together, it made a difference," he said.

[Updated at 11:19 a.m.] Obama said there is room for discussion on competing tax plans.

"If the Republican leadership is prepared to get serious ... I would love to talk to them," he told reporters at the White House.

Obama insisted, however, that GOP plans to extend the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning over $250,000 are a bad idea.

[Updated at 11:13 a.m.] A reporter asked Obama about his assertion that Democrats wouldn't do well in the midterm elections in November if it would be a referendum on the economy.

"For 19 months we have steadily worked to avoid a depression, to take an economy that was contracting and making it grow again," Obama said. "But we're not there yet."

Obama acknowledged Americans' anger about the slow progress.

"And because I'm the president and the Democrats have controlled the House and the Senate, it's understandable that people are saying 'what have you done?' "

However, Obama said, the Republicans don't offer a better solution - in fact, their policies are worse.

"The Republicans' offers are exactly the ones that got us into this trouble," he said. "If you want the same kind of skewed policies that led us to these problems, the Republicans are ready to do that."

[Updated at 11:11 a.m.] Obama announced that Austan Goolsbee will be named chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Goolsbee will replace Christina Romer, who stepped down this month as chair of the council, a panel of three White House officials who offer the president economic advice and help formulate policy.

[Updated at 11:08 a.m.] Obama on Friday once again urged the Senate to pass his small business jobs bill, arguing that it has been blocked by "a partisan (Republican) minority."

Obama praised Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, for announcing that he would not help GOP leaders block the bill.

[Updated at 11:02 a.m.] Obama said the goal of his latest proposals is to help jump-start an economy still dealing with the impact of the recession.

"Even though the economy is growing again ... the hole the recession left has been huge," Obama said.

"Millions of Americans are still looking for work."

He touted his administration's investments in infrastructure as a chance to remain competitive with other countries that are working on similar projects including high-speed rail.

[Posted at 10:50 a.m.] President Obama will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Friday, his first full-scale question-and-answer session at the White House in nearly four months and his seventh full-scale news conference at the White House since he took office.

The last presser was back in May when the president answered questions mainly about the oil spill. This one is expected to focus on the economy.

soundoff (818 Responses)
  1. theantibush

    "..'We are not at war against Islam'.."

    It is a sad day when the president has to state the obvious.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      "We are not at war with Islam". It is a sad day when the president has to state the obvious. "

      Maybe Islam can fool some of the people some of the time, but I prefer to re phrase this to " We are at war with a percentage of Islam, we are working to determine that number at the moment " Obama doesn't know the number, you don't know the number, and the muslims wont tell you either. So what do you do ? Allow the same free reign for muslims in America that has changed the landscape in Europe, to the point where you can not practice your own religion and culture in parts of your own land. Is that the tolerance that Obama extends toward an intolerant Islam, really. Do these people not read, do these people not get out and about. Read the papers, watch the news, check out the Islamification of Europe, check out their idea of tolerance. Then get back to me with a simple apology.......

      September 10, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MuDdLe

    @ Orion Styles, who suggests that religious belief and democracy are like oil and water.

    Consider this quote from GK Chesterton:

    "The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man."

    His view is that the very idea of democracy is rooted in the notion of the dignity of the individual person and that this, in turn, has its foundation within an overall theistic context. Jeremy Bentham said that the notion of "imprescriptable (inalienable) rights" is "nonsense on stilts." Daniel Dennett has lately agreed, acknowledging that there simply no conceptual space within his naturalistic worldview that could accommodate such. I do not believe that this nation was founded as a "Christian nation." I most certainly believe that the concept of American democracy has both historic and logical roots within the scaffolds of theistic (or, perhaps, deistic?) belief.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Curt

    "one of those is to practice their religion freely" Part of my religion is smoking weed because I believe it a gift from my God... So why cannot I not legally grow it and smoke it.. If I supposedly have religious freedom.... OBAMA IS A LIE so are all other politicians until they admit the system is unfair.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chopswell

    So much for separation of church and state, Obama. His true colors are bleeding out and frankly, I'm sick of having a muslim sympathizer as our president. And I'm not saying "I hate muslims." I'm saying, Obama is going way overboard here and this whole mess is being so blown out of proportion because of his pro-activeness for said rights of muslims. Obama needs to focus on our economy-making it better-and not by tossing in another 350 billion dollars to anyone–EXCEPT those that need it the most! Power of the few–for the few. It's b.s. VOTE'm ALL OUT IN NOVEMBER!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michael

    Sorry, Mr. Obama, but Islam is the enemy. It's time to admit this to ourselves and get them out of our country.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Garrick Harris

    He has been wrong about everythig – We are at war with Islam.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sri

    Islam is not a color, Muslims are not a race (stop thinking only Arabs). It is a belief system–one that conflicts with the modern world's views regarding equality, morality, freedom and the origins of the universe. It can and should be criticized by anyone without fear of being called racist. I would say the same about any fundamentalists, whatever the religion, but right now the one that is at the forefront for conflict all around the world is Islam. Couch it in all the politically correct terms you want, our American philosophy of secularism, equality/freedom for all is most certainly at war with sharia law.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • NHDude

      Sri: good post... my feeling is islam is not a religion and your sharia law note is really the proof.. it's a political movement and business ... same as fascism or nazism... and it should be denied freedom of religion status... all contributions to it should be taxed as business income and their locations heavily taxed as commercial property,,, they should have zero protections under the law beyond what any operating business has... and as proof... what protections would a Christian Church have in the heart of the islamist poltical foundation of Saudi Arabia?

      none... and they would be killed immediately by so-called muslim moderates ... my plan allows then to live... shows how much better we are than they can ever be

      September 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Curt

    I certainly don't trust Islam or believe they hold any credibility.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • rcasteel

      You better change that notion. You are going to upset a few extremists and endanger lives talking like that.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. elmo

    Good speech from a wise president.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • rcasteel

      I agree, Bush was very wise to word things like he did after the attacks.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert Mcgee

    Mr Obamma had better wake up and smell the coffee because Islam IS at war with us.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jeff

    not all muslims are terrorists, but a % of them are . And a % of them are aiding and abetting, and all of them plan to change your landscape, this is for sure. If you don't mind getting your landscape changed for you in the future, or your childrens future, then Obama is your man , and Muslim immigration doors flung wide open. Message from Obama to mUslims you are welcome here, you are welcome to practice your religion, you are welcome to try and change America into the next Islamified Britain or France, I personally don't get out and about, nor am I aware of this, so trust me on this. Tolerance is the way. You should tolerant of the Islamic movement as it changes your landscape. Ask anybody who has enough vision, or worse, is living through this, and you shall get a true answer. Not from a huckster !

    September 10, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. american arab

    As a 3rd generation american muslim the Quran buring is deeply disturbing and confusing. I believe in America and all it stands for. I had an uncle killed in WWII and several relatives who have, and are still serving in our military. What pastor jones is doing is within his first amendment rights as an American but is also a threat to our national security. He is nothing more then an attention getter and this whole thing should of been portrayed as a crazy street person carrying a sign "the end is near". If the White House steps in his rights are denied. If he goes thru with it it is fuel for terrorists. I am worried about my childrens safety and there future as Americans. There are ways around this that need to be looked into. It is tradition, not law, in Islam that if a Quran is damaged it needs to be destroyed by fire. The philsophy being that all of the words of god might not be contained in a damaged Quran. If he was to get them wet first or use damaged Qurans the backlash might not be as bad.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becca Lauer

      if u dont like what the americans r doing then get the hell out and go back over there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We don't want u here.

      September 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • rcasteel

      If you lay down your rights because of a threat, you might as well surrender them all now. If all I have to do is threaten violence then you cower in the corner like obama wants, then you should just resign yourselves to being slaves to the rest of the world. It is incredibly stupid to ask Americans to NOT exercise their rights to free speech because the enemy threatens violence. Many died giving us those rights and many should be willing to die to keep them.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jeff

    it is the pertinent question, do we become the next Islamified Britain , or France, or do we take back the Country ? This is the real issue, don't believe Obama, he is snoozing BIG TIME, or he has an ulterior motive, or he is not telling it like it is., but instead will fight against it without telling the Islamic population. I hope it is the third option !!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pippi

    'All men and women are created equal', president Obama said. Well, in Islam women only have half the value of a man. The government can't fool people with this garbage about islam being the 'religion of peace' anymore, that train has left the station.....

    September 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hawa

    Woow nice. He is right people. Love him for that peace loving.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32