WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Thursday that Islam was not the only religion distorted by extremists to suit their practices, it was done in other faiths too.
“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Mr Obama said in his address to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
“In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.” The National Prayer Breakfast brings hundreds of people across the world to Washington to pray together for peace and prosperity. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto often attended these prayers while living in exile. President Obama told the gathering on Thursday that groups like the Islamic State, who committed violence in the name of religion, were distorting the Islamic faith.
Once again sticking his neck out to urge people not to confuse extremism with Islam, Mr Obama said such distortions were not unique to any faith. “We see faith driving us to do right,” he said. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, being used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.”
Right-wing religious groups in the West, including some Republican lawmakers in the United States, have accused Mr Obama of “protecting Islam”. They insist that this was a clash of two faiths and civilisations, the Islamic and the Judeo-Christian.
President Obama rejected this suggestion, saying that groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda were cults. He described the Islamic State as “a brutal, vicious death cult,” whose members oppressed minorities and raped women in the name of religion. Mr Obama once again stressed that any faith could be “twisted” by humans to justify acts of injustice and violence. “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith,” he said.
The president urged all people to push back “against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends.” “No God condones terror,” he said. “No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.”
President Obama noted that in the Islamic world, extremists were using religion “as a wedge” to divide people “or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon” to kill the innocent. “From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it,” he said.
“We see ISIL (ISIS), a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorising religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.”
Mr Obama noted that sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, were “so often perpetrated in the name of religion.”
The president also referred to one of the participants, the Dalai Lama, whose presence at the event has prompted criticism from the Chinese government. “I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is a powerful example of what it means to practise compassion and who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and the dignity of all human beings,” Mr Obama said. – Dawn