Radical militants and religion: Obama says ISIL is not 'Islamic,' but not everyone agrees

In his prime-time address to the nation Wednesday night on fighting the Islamic State militant group — also called ISIS and ISIL — President Barack Obama declared:

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not "Islamic." No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

Noting what Obama said, CNN suggested:

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama was trying to make a broader point when he uttered "ISIL is not Islamic," but the four-word phrase could still come back to haunt him.
Critics on Twitter quickly fired off on the President for making the assertion, with many noting that ISIL in fact stands for the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant." (CNN refers to the group by the acronym ISIS in its news reports. The group recently started calling itself the Islamic State).

Some of the reaction on Twitter (including a couple courtesy of the CNN report):

Religion reporter G. Jeffrey MacDonald posed relevant questions that may be helpful for Godbeat pros and other journalists:

GetReligion's editor, Terry Mattingly, weighed in last week:

Tmatt earlier highlighted important historical background:

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on more than two dozen Muslim American clerics and community leaders condemning Islamic terrorism at a crowded news conference:

From that story:

The news conference included a broad array of speakers, highlighting the growing concern among Muslim Americans that their communities will be tarred with the extremist brush amid reports of Western Muslims being recruited to fight with the Islamic State.
Using the acronym for a former name of the Islamic State, Faizal Khan, imam of the Islamic Society of America mosque in Silver Spring, said, “ISIS and al Qaeda represent a warped religious ideology. Either we reject this violence in the clearest possible terms, or we allow them to become the face of Islam and the world’s perception of us for years to come.”

Khan accused ISIS and al Qaeda of "a warped religious theology" but nonetheless pointed to the religious motivation.

Is ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State — whatever you call it — "Islamic?"

Given the president's statement, it certainly seems like a timely question for reporters to explore. If you see news reports that attempt to do so, please share the links.

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