US president Barack Obama gave a rare prime-time speech from the Oval Office to address a new breed of self-radicalized terrorism in the wake of last week’s San Bernardino shootings, while urging Americans not to play into the hands of the Islamic State.
“The terror threat has moved into a new phase,” he said. “As we’ve become better at preventing complex multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.”
Without mentioning them by name, Obama said that San Bernardino shooters Syed Rizran Farook and Tashfeen Malik had “gone down the dark path of radicalization” and embraced a “perverted version of Islam.”
Describing ISIL as “thugs and killers, part of a cult of death,” Obama said the extremist group wants the United States to be drawn “into a long and costly ground war,” and to have Americans “turn against each other by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.”
In a short and rather restrained speech, Obama announced no new policies or strategies in the fight against ISIL. He did call for a new law, recently rejected by Republican lawmakers, that would make it illegal for anyone on the US terrorist watch list to buy a gun: “What we can do and must do is make it harder for them to kill.”
Obama urged Americans to avoid discriminating against Muslims—”our friends and our neighbors, our coworkers, our sports heroes”—but also said “an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslim leaders must confront without excuse.”
“But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans, of every faith, to reject discrimination,” he said.