WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Al Qaeda and ISIS are "desperate for legitimacy," U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday at his three-day Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. "They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam," he said. "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."
The White House has gone out of its way not to name Islamic extremism as the summit's central focus. It says it's wary of elevating the terrorists into religious warriors. Republicans and some terrorism experts say the threat from Muslim-aligned radicals should be addressed directly.
"We are not at war with Islam," Obama said Wednesday. "We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."