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Counterterror Expert: Muslims Must Counter IS Messaging

  • Mohamed Elshinnawi

U.S. President Barack Obama greets students after his remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville, Maryland, Feb. 3, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama greets students after his remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville, Maryland, Feb. 3, 2016.

In his address to the American Muslim community Wednesday, President Barack Obama warned young American Muslims against the false claims of the Islamic State (IS) terror group, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL.

“Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy," Obama said in his address at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. "They try to portray themselves as religious leaders and holy warriors who speak for Islam. I refuse to give them legitimacy. We must never give them that.”

The militant group has recruited thousands of fighters from around the world using propaganda and social media. The group called on all Muslims to join the fight for a utopian Islamic caliphate they claim to have established in Iraq and Syria.

President Obama noted that the majority of the people killed by IS are innocent Muslim men, women and children.

Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, the former director of the U.S. State Department’s Center for Counterterrorism Communications, said Muslims must come together to counter IS's messages. He suggested social media as the best platform to counter the group's messages aimed at potential recruits.

“You need Muslims who are people of conviction, who are eloquent people in social media space, challenging the discourse of the extremists," he said. "There should be professionals who actually engage these people and seek to sway them from the path they are taking.”

Fernandez added that the military campaign that managed to push IS out of about 40 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq is crucial in denting its appeal - breaking the myth that it is an Islamic state which is always expanding.

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