Barack Obama speaks at the White House Summit
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, February 18, 2015.Reuters

US president Barack Obama defended his administration's approach to combating terror during his speech at the White House summit on countering violent extremism on Wednesday. He clarified that the US government sought to strike a balance between maintaining an accepting environment for the Muslim-Americans and observing vigil against the radicals.

"We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam," Obama said before adding that the Muslim leaders need to discredit the notion "that our nations are determined to suppress Islam".

He also clarified that groups like the Islamic State do not represent Islam and throughout his speech, maintained that everyone linking extremism to the Muslim faith must be avoided at all cost. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL are desperately seeking legitimacy and approval, Obama said.

"They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defence of Islam. We must never accept the premise that they put forward 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 clarified that the time is ripe "to rededicate ourselves" and address the grievances that terrorists exploit. Obama also stressed that the international community needs to address "grievances" that terrorists exploit, including economic and political issues.

Watch President Obama's full speech on Countering Violent Extremism: