At anti-ISIS Meet, Tillerson Rallies Against 'Warped Interpretation of Islam'

U.S. hosts first international coalition meeting, presses the need for 'counter message' across the Muslim world in parallel to military efforts.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that the terror organization ISIS represents "a warped interpretation of Islam" and praised America's Muslim allies for participating in the fight against the organization.

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Speaking at the first meeting of the 68 nation strong international anti-ISIS coalition, Tillerson quoted Jordanian King Abdullah II, who said regarding ISIS: "Everything they are, everything they do, is a blatant violation of my faith."

Tillerson also said that ISIS is fighting in the name of "a perverse ideological message" and that "our Muslim partners have important roles to play in combatting that message." Tillerson specifically mentioned two countries - Saudi Arabia and Egypt - in that context, but added more broadly that it was good to see "so many that are ready to take up this responsibility." 

Tillerson's message that ISIS doesn't represent true Islam and that Muslim allies are critical in order to defeat the organization, is in line with the policy that has guided the United States in its' battle against Islamist terror organizations ever since 9/11, but runs against what a number of President Trump's advisers during the 2016 election and the transition period have said. 

Preventing a Digital Caliphate

According to Tillerson, defeating ISIS is currently the United States' top foreign policy goal. Tillerson said in his speech that the internet is the organization's "best recruiting tool" and that it was important not to allow "a digital caliphate" to rise online, at the same time that the physical ISIS "caliphate" on the ground in Iraq and Syria is being defeated. "We need to fight them online as aggressively as we would on the ground," Tillerson said.

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In order to blow a "lasting defeat" to ISIS, Tillerson added, it was important to invest not only in a military effort, but also in "counter messaging" across the Muslim world, and in "partnerships with local leaders who reject extremism."

He also said the world should step up its' effort to assist citizens in areas of Syria and Iraq that have been liberated from ISIS control and are now trying to resettle and rebuild their communities.