All three Democratic presidential candidates declined to blame Islam or Muslims for the deadly terrorist attack in Paris, when asked during Saturday’s debate.
After opening the debate with comments on the Paris attacks from each candidate, CBS moderator John Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton whether she agreed with Republican presidential Marco Rubio, who said earlier that the US is at war with “radical Islam.”
“We are not at war with Muslims or Islam, we are at war with violent extremism,” Clinton said.
Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also declined to use the words “Islam” or “Muslim” in conjunction with the terror attacks that killed 128 and left hundreds wounded.
“The term is not what’s important,” said Sanders. “What’s important is we have organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda who want us to go back several thousand years, who believe we should make women third class citizens, that children should be sexually assaulted.”
Former Maryland governor O’Malley also refused to use the words “radical Islam.”
“Calling it what it is is to say radical jihadists,” he said. “Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking our Muslim neighbors and friends are our enemies. We are going to defeat ISIS there and around the world because Muslim Americans in our country and around the world are going to see ISIS is perverting the name of a great religion.”
All three candidates also stressed the importance of Muslim countries in the Middle East participating in the fight against ISIS and other extremist groups.
“The Muslim nations in the region, these nations are going to have to get their hands dirty, boots on the ground,” said Sanders, who name-checked countries including Jordan and Turkey. “Those countries are going to have get deeply involved. We should be supportive, but those Muslim countries are going to have to lead the effort, which they are not now.”
Clinton disagreed with Sanders, touting Jordan’s involvement in the fight thus far, for which the country has received its own fair share of terror threats.
But, she continued, “Turkey and the Gulf nations have to make up their minds. Are they going to stand up with us or not? They need to be absolutely clear about where they stand.”
While the debate was expected to focus mainly on national security and foreign policy following the Paris attacks, the conversation shifted back onto the economy and domestic policy after the first 30 minutes.