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. Becca Lauer

    I applaud Rev Terry Jones and think that he should burn the quran on 9/11 and roast marshmellows over the fire! As for causing our soldiers to b n harms way n the middle east, well aren't we fighting a war over there and aren't they already n harms way? Obama u r a contradiction! U have been the worst thing that has happened to this country and if u were a real american, u would deny the mosque being built near ground zero. Real americans have B@//$ and will fight to keep the trash out of our country, Take Arizona for instance. They finally got up the cahoona's to stop the mexicans from flooding into this country and taking hard working american's money while u tried to 'advise' them not to pass their law. U need to grow a pair and stand up for MY country. Stop politicians from fleecing the real americans and make them to pay for any disshonesty in their work. Maybe if they were fined thousands of dollars for lining their own pockets then maybe they will pass the laws and bills that would benefit americans and not their pockets. (And by the way, your theif of a wife needs to put our money back that she used for her vacation!) This country seems to have a bunch of pansy ^$$e$ working for it. If u don't have the B^//$ to protect our country and run it right then get the hell out of there and let us do it ourselves! It was a sad day when barak HUSSEIN obama got elected and now his muslim butt is letting his people walk all over the americans. IT NEEDS TO STOP NOW!!!!!!!!!!! BURN THE QURAN!!!!!!!!!! BURN BABY BURN!!!!!!!!!!

    September 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |

      That's why I say that 99% of Americans have an understanding of tolerance...Guess you represent the 1% !... What size Hoody you wear ?

      September 10, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignorance_is_dangerous

      Ahhh .....the ignorance just continues to get worse and worse .....I pray that you see you the light one day, but unfortunately your heart is sealed many others .... enjoy your paradise in this world, because you will surely feel the torment in the hereafter. Quote: "There is a disease in their hearts, to which God has added more: agonizing torment awaits them for their persistent lying."

      September 11, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |

    Tomorrow marks 9 years that the Twins Towers were Destroyed and 3,000 people in it. But yet 90% of all Muslims and 62% of North American Muslims do not believe that radical elements of Islam did it .
    EVERYONE has a right to worship in an equal distance as others w/o prejudice.This is America after all .

    BUT :
    How much does an average Mosque cost to build ? Is $100,000,000 really needed ? Aren't most of the existing Mosques in NYC , challenged financially ? What kind of Job was done in EXISTING Mosques in educating Muslims on who was responsible for the Towers demise ? Isn't NYC ALREADY the most tolerant city in the world in terms of race and religion ?

    Until every Imam in every Mosque starts his day with an opening monologue "I want to tell you that Radical Muslims destroyed the Towers, please let the word be known". Till then will the corrupted minds change a corrupted view.

    Reminds me of villagers around concentration camps, who mostly claimed they had NO CLUE of the mass killings there. They had NO CLUE , or they didn't want to have a CLUE ? I am glad that Germany enacted a law, that it is UNLAWFUL to deny the Holocaust . Maybe the same should start here with Muslims in denial of those who were really responsible for 9/11.

    Build a modest Mosque and pray nearby , don't build a Monument. There will be plenty of that , 2 blocks away. Take the $100,000,000 and build 100 Mosques around the world Mr. Imam Rauf and go to them and preach want you claim you will. Perhaps you will get all your funding from none Muslims.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim

    Osama Bin Laden caused the 9/11 attack on America for political purposes. He stated openly that he wanted America out of Arab lands, especially Saudi Arabia. He didn't attack to spread the Islamic religion. President Bush clearly recognized that fact after the attack and stated that this would not be a war against Islam but rather against the political ideology of Al Queda. The extreme right wing Christian fundamentalists in America is not content with that and actively is wanting to make it a war against ALL Muslims in America and elsewhere.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |

      Do you really believe what you said ? Why are you more concerned with Republicans , who the vast majority would deny your claim ? Shouldn't you be more concerned that 9 out of 10 Muslims or 6 of 10 American Muslims claim that Radical Muslims had nothing to do with the Twin Towers Demise ? Your ill thought process is in line with Majority of Muslims who claim that Israel/U.S are responsible for the Towers demise.War may not be the answer but Education hasn't even started.

      September 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignorance_is_dangerous

      Uhhh....MEEENMACHINE ...not sure who's feeding those stats to you, but you have them reversed ..... but most Muslim haters seem to reverse data ....Do most Americans think that because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian people should no longer support churches?.... you are probably one of those folks who thinks Iraq was responsible for 9/11 too.

      September 11, 2010 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. tommy2

    It's not hard to image why people are fearful and enraged by the actions of some Muslims. A group of terrorist attacked America; destroyed the New York Trade Towers, Part of the Pentagon and killed nearly 3500 people . . . of all faiths and ethnical backgrounds. They claimed to do it because of some offense committed them and finally they found the greatest excuse and claimed to do it in the name of Islam. They did it because they were losing their power and the masculine dominance they cherish is threatened. Some in their lands are trying to move out of the middle ages and they see America as the biggest example of progress and the terrorist criminals in the Middle East want to destroy that image. They see other religions as a threat to their male dominance and declare their religion the only one; burning bibles, destroying churches, killing Christians and prohibiting any churches or other houses of worship to be built. It's not the religion, it's the segment of that Islamic group that demands Muslims stay in the dark ages and men dominate. They in particular.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignorance_is_dangerous

      Uhhh seem to know the intimate details of how they think....No normal human being condones what happened, but you think its a one way street? Look at how many innocent men, women and children and have been killed because of regimes supported by the US. There are people that experience 9/11 like events everyday outside of the US and you think its because of some power/dominance bullcrap? All that other hogwash that you spewed is even worse and false. That is why more are more people are becoming ignorant, because its spreads like wildfire without an ounce of truth to it. And amazing so many ignorant people believe it.

      September 11, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. jennifer

    they (faux lite) keep vetoing my comments as they know I speak for the nation...keep up the good work Obama...
    Palin-Beck= both proven liars this week

    September 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. NHDude

    Look, let's face it... we missed our chance... on 9/12/2001 we should have nuked Teheran, nuked Baghdad and naplamed mecca and the grand mosque and hopefully a few hundred thousand of the 'faithful' into the stone age... and the world would have cheered us on and we'd be still living in the glow of having irradicated this trash from the planet... but Dumb George was owned by the muslim oil folks and now we have a 1/2 muslim running the show.

    So let's think of how we can beat this trash and be around to see the next generation of Americans living as they should,,, free of stonings and subjugation... for if we let this man make our decisions beyond 2012 we will be quite unfree.

    September 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignorance_is_dangerous

      You my friend take 'Ignorance' to the highest level. There isn't enough space here to cover all that ignorance, but let's start with the trash that is filled in the prisons in this country. Do they represent you? Are they the same religion as you? Are they the same color as you? Were they not born in the same land as you? Does the trash that bombed Oklahoma City represent you? ...They tried to blame the Middle East first....Does the trash Eric Rudolph represent you? Does the trash Unabomber represent you? Does the trash that sent the Anthrax letters represent you? ....Again they blamed foreigners, but was homegrown.....My guess is they were all 'Christians', so should we put these stamps on the 99% of decent Christians out there? ...No ....Quote: "There is a disease in their hearts, to which God has added more: agonizing torment awaits them for their persistent lying."

      September 11, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. The_Dude

    Obama = the biggest enemy to America

    September 10, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Becca Lauer

    If u have forgotten what happened on 9/11, go to and put in a search of world trade center jumpers mdlestwe4get. Some people need a good stiff reminder of what has happened to the innocent people of that horrible day.

    September 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ignorance_is_dangerous

      I'm glad that you live in a bubble. Everyone prays for innocent lives that are lost ....except maybe for you and those that live in a bubble. Innocent men, women and children are killed everyday in Palestine, Iraq and other countries, but since you live in a bubble, you will only see things inside that bubble and will never understand the 9/11 like events others face every single day. ... Quote: "There is a disease in their hearts, to which God has added more: agonizing torment awaits them for their persistent lying."

      September 11, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. Iyov

    This is all a play on words. We are not at War because Congress has not declared war.

    September 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sagebrush Shorty

    President Obama talks a lot but actually says very little.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ***

    People complain about anything that they believe will reduce the value of their property, WalMart, grocery stores, liquor stores, churches, strip joints...anything that they think will lower the value of their property will usually get some type of this is nothing all.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. please find truth

    Let’s see if I can give you some perspective…
    Worst Islamic Countries…
    1. Saudi Arabia
    2. Pakistan
    3. Iran
    4. Iraq
    5. UAE
    6. Afghanistan
    7. Egypt and etc …..
    All of these killing their own people.
    So People in these countries are living under siege. And wanting to get there freedom- But America buy off the leaders(kings/Generals) in their countries and keep illegal regimes in power in exchange of natural resources. Government in all of these countries are getting support from America (USA).
    Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan does not have real Islam – they actually have a Islam that is forced upon the people by their American supported Kings and War lords.

    So Osama sends a letter to America- please stop meddling in the internal affairs of his country (SaudiArabia)- America responded F*OFF – We cannot let you dictate us how to steal resources in your country – it does not matter if it’s yours – we need is and by god we will get it. You camel jockeys you don’t even have a car – so what are you goanna do with all of this black gold.

    So he brought together some nitwits to go to America and take revenge. So these people who happened to be Muslims believed in Islam teaching of giving up their lives in self defense. And ended up in WTC in NY (now how they ended up there is a story for some other time). In any case they did not go to Canada, Spain or France or Australia. They came to US.

    Keep in mind that you never heard from these crazy people that they were killing Christians in the name of Islam. ( And this is one thing I hope Never happens), Instead they killed Americans in Name of Self defenses by using the misunderstood moral Authority of Islam.

    And to this Day Any real Muslim in those is still not against Christians or Jesus. And they don’t want to kill people who look white or speak English. They want to get rid of unjust practice of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

    So question to Americans - all 70% of them –
    1. Can you stop stealing other people resources.
    2. Can you stop supporting the tyrant’s in Islamic countries
    3. Can you stop being the only country vetoing the United nations resolutions.
    4. Can you stop defending Muslims in the name of freedom and let them kill themselves.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • james s roberts

      Amen, Amen and Amen. And Americans wonder why Muslims dislike them.

      September 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |

      I read one paragraph and found out what an idiot you are...Is Mecca in Saudi Arabia? Guess all those people flocking to Mecca for pilgrimage are visiting a false Islamic country . Hey all you Muslims, the country is for Infidels . I sure am glad I'm here, if I had to follow my leader's religion , I would of have to given up mine.

      September 10, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Average American

    He's right, we're surrendering to it, now.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. james s roberts

    If it's our duty to ".....convict people who murdered innocent Americans and that carried out terrorist attacks against us.", then why get upset when Al Queda and Tallan mimick USA when American uses Drone flights (Predators) killing innocent civilians. I am confused.....

    September 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |

      Idiot , how many drones were sent before 9/11 ?

      September 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • rcasteel

      If you harbor or hang with terrorists, you die with them. That's justice.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |

    Its time for this country to enact a 9/11 clause in similar style to what Germany did regarding the Holocaust .Making it unlawful to deny that Radical Muslims destroyed the Towers.Today 62% of North American Muslims do not believe Radical Muslims were involved with the Towers demise.

    This percent shows the failure or lack of education given by all Imams in condemning what happened, even in an open society as ours.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
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