Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
President Barack Obama speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House Complex in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the U.S. is not at war with Islam but with people who have perverted the religion.

Some have criticized the White House for avoiding linking terrorism directly to Islamic extremism. But Obama says those fighting for the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are not religious leaders, but terrorists.

He says no religion is responsible for violence and terrorism. He says he wants to lift up voices of tolerance in the U.S. and beyond.

Obama was speaking Wednesday at a White House summit on countering violent extremism. He is calling for a focus on preventing terrorists from recruiting and inspiring others.