“It certainly would advance ISIL’s narrative that somehow they were acting on behalf of Islam, when in fact, as the president noted yesterday, the ideology that they are seeking to advance is a gross perversion of that religion,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.
President Barack Obama labeled the attacks an act of terror during a national address Sunday night while stopping short of attaching the “Islamic” denomination to the mass shootings that left 14 dead outside of Los Angeles.
Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, last Wednesday killing 14 people and injuring dozens of others.
Malik reportedly pledged fealty to Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook around the time of the attack.
Farook and Malik were killed in an exchange of fire with police several hours after their initial rampage. On Friday, officials announced that the attacks were being investigated as an act of terrorism.
Obama used his national address to emphasize that Daesh did “not speak for Islam,” calling the radical group “thugs, killers”, and a “cult of death”.
He urged Muslim Americans to partner in the fight against Daesh and reject its ideology.
Stressing that the U.S. is “not at war with Islam”, Earnest said, “There are millions of patriotic Muslims in America right now” and that “the broader American community has a responsibility to make clear that we’re going to work with Muslim Americans to protect our country and to protect those in their community that are at risk of being radicalized.”
Investigators are currently trying to assess how exactly the husband-and-wife duo became radicalized.
Asked how the U.S. can counter the kind of individual radicalization that led to the southern California shootings, Earnest said “there are no easy answers to this”.
He pointed to programs being run in Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis-St. Paul where law enforcement has worked with community leaders “to build strong connections, to counter sort of radicalizing messaging of extremists, but also to reach out to those who are at risk of being radicalized and giving them an alternative opportunity”.