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Obama: Religious Acceptance Key to Combating Extremism

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President Barack Obama told world leaders on Thursday that promoting democracy and acceptance of people of all faiths are essential to stopping the spread of violent extremism.

“Groups like al Qaeda and [ISIS] peddle the lie that some of our countries are hostile to Muslims. Meanwhile we’ve also seen, most recently in Europe, arise inexcusable acts of anti-Semitism, or in some cases anti-Muslim sentiment, or anti-immigrant sentiment,” Obama said at the closing session of a White House summit on combating extremism. “When people spew hatred towards others -- because of their faith or because they're immigrants -- it feeds into terrorist narratives.”

The president's remarks come as anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in Europe following terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.

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The president also said stability requires democratic governments and that oppressing groups upon sectarian lines fuels the hatred that creates terrorism. The Sunnis alienation from the Iraqi government was a major factor that led to the rise of ISIS.

“When people are oppressed and human rights are denied, particularly along sectarian lines, or ethnic lines, when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremists,” Obama said.

Thursday marked the second day the president addressed the conference that consisted of delegates from more than 60 countries. In both his speeches, Obama made clear the west was not at war with Islam, but those who have “perverted” it.

"The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie," Obama said.

-- Andrew Rafferty

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