(CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama toughened his rhetoric against ISIS at a weekend press conference in Malaysia that concluded his nine-day trip abroad.
The group responsible for the Paris terror attacks is “a bunch of killers with good social media,” he said. “They are dangerous and they’ve caused great hardship to … an overwhelming majority of people.”
The global coalition formed to destroy ISIS “will not relent,” he vowed. “We will not accept the idea that terrorist assaults on restaurants and theaters and hotels are the new normal, or that we are powerless to stop them.”
Obama’s stronger language on ISIS came after days of criticism for his response to the tragedy in Paris but did not signal a policy shift by the administration.
“They can’t beat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us into being afraid, and changing our patterns of behavior, and panicking, and abandoning our allies and partners, and retreating from the world,” Obama said. “As president, I will not let that happen.”
It’s “absolutely false” that “we are somehow at war with an entire religion,” he said. “The United States could never be at any war with any religion because America is made up by multiple religions. We’re strengthened by people from every religion, including Muslim Americans. So I want to be as clear as I can on this — prejudice and discrimination helps (ISIS) and undermines our national security.”
Obama was hit with a wave of criticism in the wake of the terrorists’ attacks in France and Lebanon, which left hundreds dead. At a press conference a few days after 130 people were slaughtered in France’s capital, Obama described that burst of violence as a “setback” in the battle against ISIS.
He also addressed the backlash in the United States against accepting Syrian refugees after it was widely reported that one of the Paris attackers may have entered France among a group of refugees.
The Obama administration had said it wanted the U.S. to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.
On Thursday, the House swiftly passed a bill that would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the country until key national security agencies certify they don’t pose a security risk
“People have understandably been so concerned, given how similar Paris is to many American cities, that I get why legislation in the House moved forward quickly,” Obama said Sunday. “My hope though is, now that we have some time to catch our breath and take a look at this carefully, that people understand that refugees who end up in the United States are the most vetted, scrutinized, thoroughly investigated individuals that ever arrived on American shores.”
The process that has been “constructed over the course of several administrations, on a bipartisan basis, is extraordinarily thorough,” he said.
It already takes between 18 and 24 months for someone to be approved, he noted.
The legislation that passed only “gums up the works so much” that “effectively, you don’t see any refugees being admitted.”