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. David

    Therein lies the problem. Estimates say 10% of the islamic world IS at war with Christians and Jews and the entire western world. That is about 100 million "radicals" that want to kill everyone of us... especially the "non-God believing, turn the other cheek, let's sit and talk about it" liberals (pretty ironic since they defend them the most)

    Bottom line is the left (lead by Barry Obama) appeases the muslim world at every turn when they want to destroy us.

    Example: 9/11 Mosque site. All we have heard from the left and the media is how the Imam has the "right" to build there. Yet 1 man decides to burn a Quran and the entire establishment from Hillary to Obama freak out. What about his "RIGHT?"

    Where was the outcry from the media when in 2007 muslims across the middle east burned crosses and bibles? Seems the left didn't care. How about the fact that every time a muslim regime takes over new land the first thing they do is desecrate and destroy every Christian and Jewish site and then build a mosque on top of it?

    They are doing the same symbolic thing here with the 9/11 site. WAKE UP.

    Sadly Obama is in charge and would rather bow down and appease us into submission.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. A Texas Christian

    "We are not at war against Islam." No, we're at war against Christians, at least the gov't and non-believers are. Christians are being persecuted every day in this country and it will get worse before it gets better. Just like this Christian basher "Mike" guy. I'm sure he thinks that calling Christians infidels is okay. Bomb or deface a mosque and it's a hate crime. Do the same to First Methodist Church and it's someone exercising their "religious freedom". Burn the Koran and it's condemned by BO & company. Burn a Bible and it's perfectly okay and protected by our gov't just like burning our flag. Read the book of Revelation sometime. This is the beginning of the "End Times" and you better get prepared because things will really get out of hand real soon especially now that Russia and Iran have forged this "unholy alliance".

    September 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Phillip Bias

    we where attacked by muslims in the name of islam. Now islam claims to be a peaceful religion, we lets just see... they riot in the streets and kill and threaten to kill and burn down anything be it book burning or cartoon, even though they do far worse all the time. ISLAM IS OUR ENEMY AND THEY HAVE A FRIEND IN THE ANTI-AMERICAN TRASH IN THE WHITEHOUSE. WAKE UP AMERICA YOU ARE WATCHING YOUR ENEMY IN THE STREET
    Obama is affraid he might have to do his job and kill our enemies

    September 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Maggi

    Do Muslims every say sorry?
    I have noticed Muslims when questioned about terrorists acts commited in their name, they never say sorry about the act.
    I have noticed that Muslims have no remorse.9/11 but Feisal Abdul Rauf say that the United States deserved what happened
    Not one SORRY for 9/11 AT ANY time a simple defense of his religion but what about the “THE ISLAM IS SORRY “

    September 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ellisz

    Not at war with Islam? Why not? We should be

    September 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rick

    Obama should worry about the economy and how foolish he looks with stories such as: Obama Aides Owe $800G in Back Taxes

    A total of 41 White House staff members owed back taxes worth more than $800,000 at the end of 2009, according to an analysis report of IRS data.

    This muslim thing is a distraction from what a president should be doing – protecting the people and creating jobs.

    Get someone else in Washington.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jay Hudson

    Thank goodness for this President!!!!!! A ray of hope in a sea of ignorance and hatred.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Maggi

    Muslims are at the mercy of the ir Sharia'a Law, which has no provision for amendment and NO BILL OF RIGHTS not compasion,
    How can we can be a friend with a religion that sows hate,? not even Mr Obama spaack could stop the Today's destrations against USA..... for somting that never happen, the burnings

    September 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jay

    Thank goodness for this President!! A ray of hope in a sea of ignorance and hatred.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Debbie

    Clinton News Network has succeeded again. Got everyone fussing. I don't care what Obama thinks. He won't get my vote. He's read speeches somebody else wrote. I wonder what his true opinion of the mosque is. I believe the not brainwashed Islam believing Muslims should have respect for those who lost thier lives/families in 9/11 and not build the mosque so close to Ground Zero. If they aren't the brainwashed ones, then they need to change the name of their religion from Islam to something else and separate themselves from the brainwashed terrorists so they wouldn't be rubbing it in everyone's face what their religious follower's did to us. Enough CNN, you're beginning to suck.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • watchagonnado

      all presidents have speech writers. I can't believe how some of you are. If the President said that fish swim in the sea, you would disagree. When I read these comments I can't help but be reminded that we have a lot of loud, ignorant idiots in this country. And, we are not too far removed from the Jim Crow south days. Those racists who supported the killings of civil rights workers in the 60's are alive still and have passed on their hate.

      September 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cantonian

    Dawa means convey the truth, wihtout compulsion. Dawa is Muslim responsiblity. Dawa is what Dr. Zakir Naik, Dr. Yusuf Hamza, Dr. Yusuf Estes, Dr. Gary Williams & many others.
    Dawa is not conspiracy , as these people on youtube are projecting it to be.
    Also, it is not true that Islam teaches us to keep double faces, hate non Muslims, and give a phony smile.
    These people are either ignorant, or hatefule.
    EVen I simply convey what Ilsam is without compulsion.
    Missionaries have billions of dollars of budget to carry out their conversions.
    Muslim responsiblity is not to convert. olny to convey th truth. Allah says truth stands out. These pepole are making up stories or misquoting.
    I know shias have takayya, and you will see ahle sunnah muslims (80 percent) not accepting it. NO authentic tradtion Or the Quran tells Muslim to hate non muslm in their heart, & show a smiley face.
    For God SAke, My bigotted non muslim brothers & sistters, stop it.!

    September 10, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rcasteel

    Let me sumit all up.

    It was Bush's fault, it was Bush's fault, it's the republican's fault, it's bush's fault, its the right's fault, its the muslim extremists fault, it is bush's fault, It's the republican's fault, it's the republican's fault it is racism's fault, it is Bush's fault. there...all done.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cantonian

    I think it is not good idea to show discrimination against having a masjid insde a coummuinty center two blcoks away from gorund zero.
    It may have impact on christians & buildijng of churches all around the world.
    It will validate the claim of extremists that America is doing war on Islam.
    I don't think it is the right & smalrt thing to do.
    And, it may set a precedence within America & provide justification to right wingers to further discrimate agaisnt Muslims in similar situtaions in other places.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cantonian

    Let me state another truth:
    The word infidel or its meaning is not from the Quran & authentic tradition (Bukhari, Sahi Muslim)
    The crusaders used the word INFIDEL for muslims, and that is how it came into use.
    The Quran has word, kufr, which means knowing the truth & hiding it.
    Kafir is the doer of act.
    If someone does not the turth & does not hide it knowingly, he or she is not kafir.
    Kafir is anyone, Muslm by name or non muslim, who knows the truth, and then hides it.
    So don't accuse Muslim of call you infidel.
    CRusaders are the ones who referred to Mujslims as infidel.

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

    Tomorrow marks the 9th year since the Towers went down !
    How many Muslims and American Muslims don't believe that Radical Muslims destroyed the towers ? The Answer is shocking !

    It’s simple. Many Muslims in America don’t believe that any Muslims were involved in the 9/11 attacks. A 2007 Pew Research Center study found that 60 percent of Muslims in America are not convinced that Arabs were involved in 9/11; 40 percent do believe Arabs were involved. Pew confirmed the findings of a poll, conducted on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, at the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) annual convention, which found that 62 percent of American Muslims are not convinced that Muslims were involved in 9/11; 38 percent do believe Muslims were involved. A 2002 Hamilton College/Zogby International poll of Muslims (citizens and non-citizens) living in America found that 66% are not convinced that Al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks; 34% said Al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks.
    The World Poll that I found wasn't as forthright, since they mentioned Al Qaeda and Not radical Muslims as the possible 19 hijackers. Which left Many countries with an out.Nevertheless here it is.
    A World Public Opinion poll conducted in February 2007 found that 2% of respondents in Pakistan believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 27% said the U.S. government were responsible, 7% said Israel and 1% named another country. 63% said they did not know.
    The World Public Opinion opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2008 found that 16% of respondents in Egypt believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 12% said the U.S. government were responsible, 43% said Israel and 11% named another country. 18% said they did not know.
    The World Public Opinion opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2008 found that 11% of respondents in Jordan believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 17% said the U.S. government were responsible, 31% said Israel and 4% named another country. 36% said they did not know.
    The World Public Opinion opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2008 found that 23% of respondents in Indonesia believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 14% said the U.S. government were responsible, 5% said Israel and 1% named another country. 57% said they did not know.
    Palestinian territories
    A World Public Opinion poll conducted between July and September 2008 found that 42% of respondents in the Palestinian territories believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 27% said the U.S. government were responsible, 19% said Israel and 9% named another country. 3% said they did not know.
    The World Public Opinion opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2008 found that 39% of respondents in Turkey believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 36% said the U.S. government were responsible, 3% said Israel and 1% named another country. 21% said they did not know.
    The World Public Opinion opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2008 found that 71% of respondents in Nigeria believe Al Qaeda were responsible. 7% said the U.S. government were responsible, 2% said Israel and 6% named another country. 14% said they did not know.

    Whats interesting Nigeria who are Muslims but not Arabs, don't share the view of Arabs. Whats Also interesting is Palestinians with there share of radicals seem to know radicals better then most.

    These countries on the List are the U.S's best friends in the Muslim community. It is fair to say that Libya, Yemen, Iran Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq would give a higher % of disbelief and french Muslim countries such as Morocco(65%), Tunisia and Algeria would hover at no less then Americas 62%.

    An average of 60%, of none Muslim countries said Al Qaeda, where 30% said they didn't know.
    This is the poll that I found , I heard of a 90% poll of disbelieving Muslim countries that was taken like 4 or 5 years ago and couldn't find it.

    Bottom line here is, Muslims are in serious state of "Denial"(Similar to villagers outside of concentration camps who said they had no clue of the Mass murders happening there) Perhaps a law similar to the one Germany enacted , where denying the Holocaust is unlawful should be implemented here. There seems to be a very bad job of educating. It starts with existing Imam's here to spread the truth.

    September 10, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
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