‘We are not at war with Islam’

obama(image: NBC News)

President Obama told the White House summit on extremism that “We are not at war with Islam; we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

He said that groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL are “desperate for legitimacy.”

“They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. We must never accept the premise that they put forth because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists.”

He also said that military action alone would not be enough to combat extremism. In an op-ed previewing his speech in the Los Angeles Times, the President had written:

Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam. We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam. We can help Muslim entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop social media tools to counter extremist narratives on the Internet.

The White House is planning to work closely with tech groups to counter extremist groups’ activity on social media, Politico reports.

Representatives of more than 60 countries have traveled to Washington for the summit and while there are varying opinions on its effectiveness, the focus is on presenting a united front. President Obama will address them again at the State Department on Thursday.

One mayor from Belgium told the BBC that while the problem is global, local actions are essential, while the Christian Science Monitor looks at how muslims and non-muslims alike in Europe are trying to counter the appeal of radical Islam.

Such clear engagement is uncommon in Europe, where moderate Muslim leaders are often uncomfortable dealing with the terrorist fringe acting in the name of their religion. They complain that they are unfairly blamed for the outrages committed by people over whom they have no control.

* WORLD * Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko called for UN peacekeepers to enforce the faltering ceasefire after Ukrainian troops were forced to withdraw from the strategic city of Debaltseve. The retreat, according to Ukrainian troops quoted in the Wall Street Journal, was “chaotic, bloody and came much too late.”

The European Central Bank reportedly agreed to extend the emergency funding available to Greek banks with a €3.3bn increase in Emergency Liquidity Assistance. The US increased the pressure on Athens, saying a “constructive deal needed to be reached soon.” Meanwhile on Wednesday, Greek MPs voted to elect pro-European conservative Prokopis Pavlopoulos as the country’s new president.

In Argentina, thousands of people marched to mark one month since the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

Thursday is the Lunar New Year, with more than a billion people kicking off 15 days of festivities.

sheepHKThe year of the sheep/ram/goat arrives in Hong Kong (image: Reuters/The Guardian)

* POLITICS * Maintaining he is his “own man,” Jeb Bush used a high-profile speech on foreign policy to attempt to distance himself from his father’s – and particularly – his brother’s administrations. By many accounts it had the opposite effect, and indicated the difficulty he could have during the campaign, particularly since he has chosen to surround himself with many of the same foreign policy advisers.

Dana Milbank writes at the Washington Post:

Bush leads in the early GOP 2016 polls because his name is Bush, but that name could bring about his downfall, as well, because his brother’s tenure is remembered for misery in Iraq and economic collapse. Try though he did to differentiate himself from George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, John Ellis Bush’s delivery gave him away.

With one of Bush’s GOP foreign policy rivals, Rand Paul expected to announce his candidacy on April 7, according to the New York Times, a poll on Wednesday shows him running close to expected Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the swing states of Virginia and Colorado.

The Washington Post looks at donors to the Clinton Foundation and the overlap with support for Clinton’s nascent Presidential campaign, finding:

Nearly half of the major donors who are backing Ready for Hillary, a group promoting her 2016 presidential bid, as well as nearly half of the bundlers from her 2008 campaign, have given at least $10,000 to the foundation, either on their own or through foundations or companies they run.

The Wall Street Journal meanwhile, reports that the Clinton Foundation “defended its practice of accepting donations from overseas governments, amid concerns from some ethics experts that such contributions are inappropriate at a time when Hillary Clinton s preparing to run for president.”

* BUSINESS * France’s national assembly is set to hold a vote of confidence on Thursday after the ruling Socialists used a decree to push through economic reforms. The government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls is expected to survive but its cohesion may be in jeopardy.

Swiss prosecutors raided the Geneva HQ of HSBC in connection with an investigation into ‘aggravated money-laundering’. The move comes in the wake of revelations on how the bank’s Swiss unit handled accounts for tax evaders and criminals.

Here, the FT’s Jonathan Guthrie and Martin Arnold discuss Wednesday’s raid and HSBC’s recent difficulties, as well as the role of bank regulators in the run-up to the UK general election.

And here’s the cover of this week’s Private Eye:

privateeye:tax(image: Private Eye/TomorrowsPapersToday)

Elsewhere, the focus of the investigation into the recent breach of client data at Morgan Stanley has shifted, the Wall Street Journal reports.

* SPORTS * Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke was named as captain of the European team for next year’s Ryder Cup to be held in the US. Clarke won the tournament four times as a player and was a non-playing vice-captain for Europe’s victories in 2010 and 2012.

Major League Soccer’s 20th season, set to start on March 6th, remains threatened by a labor dispute, with players saying they’re prepared to go on strike. Adam Vaccaro writes that:

..the impasse between the two sides is hefty. MLS has practically paved the crossroads it stands at all on its own by celebrating its success and championing its future. It attributes much of that success to cost-saving measures from its infancy. Players, who see all the recent growth and all the new money, think it’s time for a change to some of those measures.

UK police are helping their French counterparts investigate the incident in the Paris Metro Tuesday involving Chelsea “fans”. CNN said the incident was a “stark reminder to bosses of the world’s most popular sport about the need for constant vigilance in the fight against racism.”

Three words: Pitchers and Catchers.

* CULTURE * Finally, Miss P, the winner of Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show, celebrated with steak at Sardi’s restaurant in New York City before guesting on Keith Olbermann’s show on ESPN.

(YouTube/Keith Olbermann)

 

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