President Barack Obama on Wednesday neutralized a conservative line of attack on his approach to terrorism by condemning a recent mass beheading in Libya as the “murder of Egyptian Christians.”
Conservatives and evangelicals cried foul when the White House released a statement Monday on the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by Libyan militants claiming affiliation with the Islamic State terror group. The statement referred to the victims as “Egyptian citizens” instead of Egyptian Christians.
But in an op-ed published Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times, Obama dispelled that ambiguity.
“In Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group we call ISIL has slaughtered innocent civilians and murdered hostages, including Americans, and has spread its barbarism to Libya with the murder of Egyptian Christians,” he wrote.
The President called for international unity in the fight against the Islamic State as world leaders gathered in Washington for a three-day summit on countering violent extremism. He emphasized that strategies other than the use of military force must be employed if the global community hopes to wipe out terrorism.
“Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies,” Obama wrote. “Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.”
Invoking the recent killings of three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina, Obama also urged Americans to uphold “pluralistic values” in order to counter violent extremists’ narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam.
“With al Qaeda and ISIL peddling the lie that the United States is at war with Islam — all of us have a role to play by upholding the pluralistic values that define us as Americans,” he wrote. “This week, we’ll be joined by people of many faiths, including Muslim Americans who make extraordinary contributions to our country every day. It’s a reminder that America is successful because we welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds.”