In a swipe at Republican presidential candidates, President Obama said Sunday that U.S. actions to discriminate against Muslims would give the Islamic State a victory over America by dividing the country.
“We will not give in to fear, or start turning on each other, or treating some people differently because of religion or race or background,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he is wrapping up a nine-day trip. “That’s precisely what terrorists like ISIL want, because, ultimately, that’s the only way that they can win.”
Mr. Obama didn’t refer to any Republicans by name, but said he was responding to “very specific” proposals to allow Christian Syrian refugees into the U.S. but not Muslims.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, has suggested that Christian refugees be allowed to immigrate after security vettings but that Muslims should be resettled in other Middle Eastern countries.
And the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, Donald Trump, has said he would be open to a national registry for Muslims.
The president such actions would give the Islamic State a powerful recruiting tool.
“That’s the very nature of terrorism — they can’t beat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us into being afraid, into changing our patterns of behavior, into panicking, into abandoning our allies and partners, into retreating from the world,” Mr. Obama said. “As president, I will not let that happen. Prejudice and discrimination helps [the Islamic State] and undermines our national security.”
In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Mali in the past week, Mr. Obama said the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State “will not relent.”
“We will not accept the idea that terrorist assaults on restaurants and theaters and hotels are the new normal — or that we are powerless to stop them,” Mr. Obama said. “We will destroy them. We will take back land that they are currently in. We will cut off their financing. We will hunt down their leadership. We will dismantle their networks and their supply lines, and we will ultimately destroy them. Even as we are in the process of doing that, we want to make sure that we don’t lose our own values and our own principles.”