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. jeff

    It is not a war, it is worse. It is a slow creeping back door revolution as muslims move in, populate, and become the majority. It will happen neighborhood by neighborhood, like in France and Britain. Don't beleive me, ask an englishman, or a frenchman what the best policy toward Islam should be ?? I dare you !!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dern Foley

    The first definition of a NEOCONSERVATIVE is that THEY WANT this war

    September 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jeff

    "all men and women are created equal" No they aren't, witness a beating of the wifey by a muslim man, or a stoning, or an honour killing, it is usually a first round knockout.

    In Montreal Canada, an Islamic mother stabbed her daughter in the head for staying out all night as an honour killing. If she didn't the old man would have kicked the sheat out of her, and the daughter, and probably killed them both ! True story, does that sound like assimilation to you ?? Come on in, build your mosques, bring in gramma, giddyup..... yeeha !!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    All you bigoted people are just proving my point; the WORLD would be much better off without religion at all. Think of how many people would not be killed over something so stupid as an Invisible Sky Daddy if organized religion did not exist or did not play such a prevalent role in human societies. And p.s., to all the bigoted Christians, a couple of things: 1) read your history books and brush up on the Crusades. Christianity has a much higher body count than Islam. 2) The God you purport to worship would not condone your hatred, bigotry, and ignorance of folks of a different faith. Get it through your heads: most Muslims are very peace-loving.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jeff

    there is nobody here that wants that war, but there is a sheatload of people here, who don't see it coming !! Nobody wanted the second world war either Einstein !!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. amarjit

    It is a fact that God & Allah are the same and so is the fact Islam & other religions are the same. Despite this known & acknowledged fact Islamic countries are breeding terrorists & abhorance for all other faiths for the last thousands of years every country & continent & every where in the world off course in different forms with violence & vulturous acts. Is any analyst able to deduce any substantial cause as it is happening in Islamic countries too where there is death & stoning to death punishments.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hawa

    People need to understand that Muslims are not the problem here. There are Muslim s in other places like India, Africa, nd Europe to just many other places. There for we cannt fight everywhere in this earth. Let's make peace and loving.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jeff

    Mike, give your head a shake. Us bigots who tout christianity are not your biggest problem. Go tell the Muslims that religion is the root cause of all evil. Go to an Islamic country, and tell them you have a problem with Islam. Then pick up yer head with your broken fingers, and get out of there !

    Do you think before you post or what !!

    September 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Curiousgeorge

    Obama is wrong, as usual. We are at war with Islam, because they started it. We just are scared to admit it.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. elaine elson cochrane

    Obama had so much to straighten out an economy that was in chaos upon his election into the whitehouse, i really don't know what people expect one man to do in such circimstances. People can be so ungrateful when the statistics speak for itself. If you wanted a superman, then you should have went to reading marvel comics because there's no laughing matter to handling the economy.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • rcasteel

      One man!? you do realize he is not a king right. there are over 600 people working on the economy and he attempts to take credit for it all.

      I love his statement about the minirity blocking progress. Unfortunately, mr. oama, the minoroty does not ahve the power to block anything at all. Democrats controll all three branches and are filibuster proof. How Pray tell are they blocking anything.

      Stop blaming and start doing.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Irene

    "We are not at war against Islam"??? No islam is at war with anyone who isn't islamic. 09/11/01...never forget, never forgive!

    September 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chas

      We were not attacked on 9/11 by Islam, we were attacked by a terrorist group supported by the Taliban in Aphganistan.
      You associate all Muslams with the attack is about as stupid as Islamic people hating all Christians because a government from a Christian country has tried to trample their culture in the name of capitalism.

      September 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becca Lauer

      AMEN Irene!!!! Toby Keith says it best, Cause we'll put a boot n their ass, it's the american way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NEVER FORGET OR FORGIVE!!!!!!

      September 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignorance_is_dangerous

      Ignorance is why you and most others will never understand .... Are all people that are in the prisons in this country represent their races for crimes they have committed? Does Timothy McVeigh represent most Americans? Does Terry Nichols represent most Americans? Does the Unabomber represent most Americans? Does David Koresh represent most Americans? Does Eric Rudolph represent most Americans? Does the KKK represent most Americans? .... My guess is that most of them were so called "Christians" ... so, please get a brain and don't make ignorant statements.

      September 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chas

    I thought we were at war with "terror".
    I know, it's about as stupid as stating we're at war with Islam.
    The previous administration went to great ends to wage an open ended war, even though we were actually trying to isolate a single radical faction of the Islamic religion. If the world Muslam population did more to distance themselves from the terrorists factions and renounce there activities it would go a long ways toward easing the tensions in the USA between Muslams and Christians.
    But then again I don't see a lot of religous leaders taking a stand against the terrorist Christian faction from Florida that is threatening to burn religous Muslam texts either.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nomoregbldgk

    "Obama stressed it is important that Americans do not believe the entire religion of Islam is offensive."–just some parts, then?

    The problem is that Americans believe what they are 'told' to believe rather than find out for themselves from reliable sources. We can either get Real or get Emotional. Can't get a reliable copy/source? Read! UFO Human Link Apageinthelife 'the secret of min' more advanced topics and the all too offensive time travel and cloaking devices can also be found there.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vic

    All of you idiot tea party stupid ass "Muslims are all terrorist" Are ignorant and should be punched in the face

    September 10, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • rcasteel

      AH...Islam the religion of peace and tolerance at work in you...nice.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Greg

    Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With god our creator, family all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:21 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