In a veiled attack on Republican White House hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, President Barack Obama described Muslim-Americans as the “most important partners” in the fight against Islamic State and asserted that attempts to stigmatise the community should be rejected.
“Our determination to win the battle against ISIL’s hateful and violent propaganda -- a distorted view of Islam that aims to radicalise young Muslims to their cause,” Obama said in his weekly web and radio address to the nation.
“In that effort, our most important partners are American Muslims. That’s why we have to reject any attempt to stigmatise Muslim-Americans and their enormous contributions to our country and our way of life,” said the US President in an apparent reference to the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric of top Republican presidential candidates -- Trump and Cruz.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Brussels, Cruz called for increased surveillance of Muslim neighbourhoods while Trump reiterated that Muslims be temporarily be prevented from entering the country.
“Such attempts are contrary to our character, to our values and to our history as a nation built around the idea of religious freedom. It’s also counterproductive. It plays right into the hands of terrorists who want to turn us against one another; who need a reason to recruit more people to their hateful cause,” Obama said.
“I am a father. And just like any other parent, the awful images from Brussels draw my thoughts to my own children’s safety. That’s also why you should be confident that defeating ISIL remains our top military, intelligence, and national security priority,” he said.
“We will succeed. The terrorists will fail. They want us to abandon our values and our way of life. We will not. They want us to give in to their vision of the future. We will defeat them with ours. Because we know that the future belongs not to those who seek only to destroy -- but to those who have the courage to build,” Obama said.
Referring to the Brussels terrorist attack that claimed 31 lives and injured 300 others, Obama said Belgium is a close friend and ally of the United States.
“And when it comes to our friends, America has their backing. Especially as we fight the scourge of terrorism. More broadly, we’re going to continue to root out and defeat ISIL,” he said.
“We’ve been taking out ISIL leadership, and this week, we removed one of their top leaders from the battlefield - permanently. A relentless air campaign -- and support for forces in Iraq and Syria who are fighting ISIL on the ground -- has allowed us to take approximately 40% of the populated territory that ISIL once held in Iraq,” he added.