(CNSNews.com) – Iranian President Hasan Rouhani accused Western media Thursday of deliberately trying to vilify Islam by identifying Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists as Muslims.
“I am astonished that these murderous groups call themselves Islamic,” he said in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly devoted largely to terrorism and extremism. “What is more astonishing is that the Western media, in line with them, repeats this false claim, which provokes the hatred of all Muslims.”
Muslims, he added, “see this defamation as a part of an Islamophobic project.”
While rejecting any link between his religion and terrorism, Rouhani instead blamed factors like foreign conspiracies, poverty and injustice.
He also accused unnamed foreign intelligence services of responsibility for creating and supporting groups like ISIS.
“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one. All those who have played a role in founding and supporting these terror groups must acknowledge their errors,” he said. “They need to apologize, not only to the past but also to the next generation.”
Rouhani further attributed terrorism carried out by Islamists to socio-economic and political factors.
“To fight the underlying causes of terrorism, one must know its roots and dry its source fountains. Terrorism germinates in poverty, unemployment, discrimination, humiliation and injustice. And it grows in the culture of violence.”
Another factor, Rouhani said, was mistakes by Western powers in the region, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,” he said. “Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.”
The regime Rouhani represents has been on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring nations since 1984, with annual reports generally naming it as the “most active” of the short list of designated countries (currently comprising Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba).
Iran created Hezbollah in the years after the 1979 Islamic revolution and has supported the Lebanese Shi’ite group ever since. Before 9/11, Hezbollah was responsible for the violent deaths of more Americans than any other terror group in history. Crossing the sectarian divide, Iran has also long bankrolled Hamas and other Sunni Palestinian terror groups.
And more recently, the U.S. government has tracked an upsurge in Iranian sponsorship of terrorism abroad.