Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out Tuesday and proclaimed that the systemic attacks against Christians by the Islamic State constitute genocide.
Clinton’s off the cuff remarks distances her from the Obama administration, which infamously has refused to classify the brutal attacks as genocide, The Washington Post reports. Such a classification could place legal obligations on the White House to take action to prevent the genocide.
While in New Hampshire at a town hall event on Tuesday, Clinton said that she previously avoided using the term because of a lack of evidence, but quickly added, said “I will because now we have enough evidence.”
“What is happening is genocide,” Clinton added, according to ABC News. “Deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives, but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territories controlled by ISIS, and so I agree with you.”
Her latest move marks an attempt to court support from Christian voters, who are furious at the Obama administration’s dodging of the issue. For many Christians, the fact that the State Department has sidestepped the discussion is another example of anti-Christian sentiment. Her comment also serves to fend off charges from Republicans of a politically correct foreign policy, a charge which has featured center stage in many of the GOP primary debates.
Aside from the presidential race, several legislators have taken notice as well. GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher recently introduced a bill, the Save Christians from Genocide Act, to give Christians and Yazidis priority refugee status because ISIS is consistently targeting those two religious groups for annihilation. The bill would force the State Department to do something it has been totally unwilling to do: declare the attacks against Christians as genocide.
Shibley Telhami, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, told The Washington Post that many Democrats hesitate to frame group conflict in terms of irreconcilable religious differences, preferring instead to point to political, economic and sociological disparities.
“This is a world view that does not accept that violence and terrible behavior is rooted in principle in religion, but instead in other political, economic or social factors,” Telhami said.
But devotion to the universalistic framework adopted by many Democrats, Telhami said, has to be balanced against the fact that there are a substantial number of Christians within the Democratic Party.
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