Secretary of State John Kerry took pains to separate the brutal Islamic terror organization ISIS from its broader religious affiliation on Wednesday, taking time out from a statement on beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff to claim that “the real face of Islam is a peaceful religion.”
Kerry spoke to a largely-Islamic audience at the State Department Wednesday, which had assembled to recognize State’s new “special representative for Muslim communities,” Shaarik Zafar. But the planned event was overshadowed by the brutal beheading of Sotloff by ISIS fighters in Iraq, pushing the secretary to again publicly condemn the group.
“Those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria need to know that the United States will hold them accountable, no matter how long it takes,” he warned in his speech.
“But here today, what is really important — and I want to take advantage of this podium and of this moment, to underscore as powerfully as I know how — that the face of Islam is not the butchers who killed Steven Sotloff,” he continued, to immediate applause. “That’s [ISIS].”
“The face of Islam is not the nihilists who know only how to destroy, not to build,” Kerry went on. “It’s not masked cowards whose actions are an ugly insult to the peaceful religion that they violate every single day with their barbarity, and whose fundamental principles they insult with their actions.”
“The real face of Islam is a peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings,” the secretary asserted. “It’s one where Muslim communities are leading the fight against poverty. It’s one where Muslim communities are providing basic health care and emergency assistance on the frontlines of some of our most devastating humanitarian crises.”
President George W. Bush often explained to the American people that Islam was a peaceful religion, claiming “Islam is peace” five days after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He still felt compelled to make that assertion at the end of his term, following nearly eight years of war against Islamic terrorism.
President Barack Obama has also felt it necessary to educate Americans on Islam’s peaceful nature. “The religion teaches peace, justice, fairness and tolerance,” he said in 2010. “All of us recognise that this great religion cannot justify violence.” And in July 2014 he declared that Islam shares “the values of peace” with other religions and cultures.