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
said.

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. stephor

    We're not at war with Islam. Then why do we have so much military equipment in the middle east?

    September 11, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. stephor

    If we're not at war, which we aren't because it was never declared, then who is the American military fighting?

    September 11, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Claudia

    ‎'A Date Which Will Live in Infamy' (F. D. Roosevelt).
    In honor of the 9/11 victims, start today a private campaign against infamy. The infamy we have been facing day by day: Proposition 8, SB 1070, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Government neglect in New Orleans, etc,...etc and etc.
    Say hi to your neighbor even if he/she doesn't look like you;)

    September 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tom

    You lie ,your a muslim , your not at war but 70% of US is. Don't you people feel stupid electing the worst president ever?

    September 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Howard

    Obama says we are not at war against Islam ... but, it sure seems like Islam is at war against us !!!

    September 11, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Robert

    And Imam Obama continues to stand before the American people and lie, lie, lie, lie and lie. The socialist is such a classic lier, that he thinks those lies are the truth. The dems are running and hiding from him so he has nothing left but to blame the GOP for his economic failures. So we are not at war with islam but that cult is at war with the Christians and the Jews. KIng Louie Obama is a disgrace to this great country and needs to be impeached.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The messiah

    Islam is a religion of peace Obama? Seriously Obama you don't live in the real world. How many more lies we have to hear from politicians with the political correctness shield? With all due respect Obama if Islam did not exist neither would Al-Qaida or Jihadists and we would not have all these problems we have today. That mosque on ground zero is a victory mosque for Al-Qaida and made to offend Americans as much as possible and it is a Islamic conquest symbol. Unless you are stupid enough to believe those arrogant muslims, there is no way that anyone with intelligence can see the hypocrisy in these muslims wanting to build the mosque on that location given the Imam supports Islamic terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Al-Qaida and other Jihadist groups and has stated the US is responsible for 9/11. What a disgraceful poor tasteless proposal that spits in the graves of those murdered by Islamic extremists. Shame on America politicians for even allowing these offensive terrorist mosque to be build by these Sharia loving terrorist breeding intolerant hypocrites.

    ‎"Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.” Koran 2:191
    “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood.” Koran 9:123
    “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch th...em.” Koran 9:5
    “Any religion other than Islam i...s not acceptable.” Koran 3:85
    “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”... Koran 9:30
    “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam” Koran 5:33
    “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.” Koran 22:19
    “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.” Koran 8:65
    “Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.” Koran 3:28
    “Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur’an.” Koran 8:12
    “Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels.” Koran 8:60

    September 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • JS

      @ Messiah : Let me try playing this game by your rules .

      "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" (Gospel of Matthew 10:34)

      But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one." (Luke 22:36 )

      You quoted 2:191 but did not quote the verse before it 2:190 . Let me do that for you .

      Quran 2:190 : Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.

      You then copied 9:5 but forgot to read and quote the next verse
      Quran 9:6 If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.

      These verses were again revealed in the context of a battle ..

      Next time – don't just blindly copy from someones website because they have their own agenda .. Pick up the real Quran and use your own intellect rather than relying on someone elses intellect to Judge Quran and Islam

      And what is wrong with you that you do not fight in the cause of Allah and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women and children whose only cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors and raise for us from You one who will protect and raise for us from You who will help! (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 75)

      And if you punish (your oppressors), then punish them with the like of that which you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, verily, it is better for the patient ones. (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 16, Verse 126)

      O you who believe! Stand steadfast for Allah as witnesses of justice, and let not the hatred of a people prevent you from justice towards them. (Nay!) be just: that is closer to piety. And fear Allah! Verily, Allah is well aware of what you do. (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 5, Verse

      Islam is a religion of Peace and Compassion . Offcourse out of 1.2 Billion Muslims – there are bound to be some bad apples but their acts have nothing to do with Islam

      September 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • JS

      And next time you paste Quranic verses – please check whether those verses actually exist in the Real Quran

      September 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tom

    Their Koran orders them to lie to the infidels , the world has been at war with them since 660AD, Obama is a muslin.

    September 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. The messiah

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B1FHeIP53Q&fs=1&hl=en_US]

    September 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. abdulamdula

    Obama, as much as I agree with you in some respects I strongly believe that you and your islamic circle of friends have a sinister plot to Islamitise America since it is the power house of the world. Remember the prophecies of nostradamus, the evil will rise from the west, it will be a anti Christ. I wonder........ You are either dumb or plain stupid because the people of islam do not want the same things as us fellow americans. If they truly did and believe this then let em advise you they would say ok, yes the mosque location is bad, we will move to another place. The most important thing is that the american people are not anti islam and they respect our wish to build a mosque so let us build a mosque else where and live in peace and harmony, open and pave the way for integration and work within the community to preserve religion and culture of the americasn way. Instead as a leader of the american people you have caused more hatred and it is a pity if you get voted in again. I will be standing for elections as well just to make sure you dont get voted. You have proven you are not a leader but a very clever man that can read other poepls essays...pity and shame we had such great expectations of you and your dream, which was ours, to change america, and yes you are changing it, islam is the way of tomorrow/.

    September 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • watchagonnado

      Wow. You must live in a scary fantasy world. You need to lay off the crazy.

      September 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tom

    Obama = muslim. It wasn't just 19 killers, they had help, the entire Islamic culture and now we're at war this them !

    September 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The messiah

    Thank you Obama for kissing the enemies ass, This is what they think of America. Geert Wilders is right, people it is time to tell the truth, Islam is a intolerant religion.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B1FHeIP53Q&fs=1&hl=en_US]

    September 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kowa

    Things Obama has never said:
    -"Somewhere in the 70's after the Munich massacre, Islam allowed themselves to be infiltrated and hyjacked by terrorists and those who desire to kill people of other religions. Those people
    who didn't like this, just watched and let it happen. Just like the good Germans in WW2 when they allowed their extermination camps to exist."
    -"Islam has every right to build a mosque at Ground Zero and few americans deny this. But, at the same time, Islam should be apologetic and tolerant to the sensitivities of americans
    and the world who lost 3000 people to islamic terrorists there and in other hyjacked flights by building elsewhere. Building the mosque there is not the way to do it"
    -"

    September 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pam

    All these Muslims are claiming equality in America that they did NOT fight for and they do NOT give in their own countries. When we see some "Americanism" in them and loyalty, we might believe them more. They want the perks only. They want my loyalty without giving any. Where is THEIR fight against this radicalism? I REFUSE to stand under their threat of retaliation if we move their insulting mosque. If they CARE, then MOVE THE THING! But they surely haven't fully won my trust as being real Americans yet. But they sure want the advantages!

    September 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JS

    @Messiah/Jay : Let me try playing this game by your rules .

    "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" (Gospel of Matthew 10:34)

    But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one." (Luke 22:36 )

    You quoted 2:191 but did not quote the verse before it 2:190 . Let me do that for you .

    Quran 2:190 : Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.

    You then copied 9:5 but forgot to read and quote the next verse
    Quran 9:6 If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.

    These verses were again revealed in the context of a battle ..

    Next time – don't just blindly copy from someones website because they have their own agenda .. Pick up the real Quran and use your own intellect rather than relying on someone elses intellect to Judge Quran and Islam

    And what is wrong with you that you do not fight in the cause of Allah and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women and children whose only cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors and raise for us from You one who will protect and raise for us from You who will help! (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 75)

    And if you punish (your oppressors), then punish them with the like of that which you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, verily, it is better for the patient ones. (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 16, Verse 126)

    O you who believe! Stand steadfast for Allah as witnesses of justice, and let not the hatred of a people prevent you from justice towards them. (Nay!) be just: that is closer to piety. And fear Allah! Verily, Allah is well aware of what you do. (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 5, Verse

    Islam is a religion of Peace and Compassion . Offcourse out of 1.2 Billion Muslims – there are bound to be some bad apples but their acts have nothing to do with Islam

    September 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
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