The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee accused Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) of trying to score “cheap partisan political points” off of the administration’s refusal to describe ISIS as Islamic.
On Fox last night, Cruz called the semantics battle and the State Department’s assertion that job opportunities will dissuade jihadists “idiocy.”
“This bizarre, politically correct, double speak is simply not befitting a commander-in-chief whose first obligation should be to protect the United States of America,” Cruz said. “…What undermines the global effort is for the President of the United States to be an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists, to analogize it to the Crusades from 700 years ago.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told CNN today that he’s “upset” with Cruz for taking on President Obama’s “simple but powerful point.”
“I don’t think this is very hard to understand or very complicated. ISIS is trying to characterize the United States and our allies as being at war with Islam, and ISIS is trying to characterize themselves as being the legitimate heirs of the prophet of Mohammed,” Coons said. “…What our president is saying is we’re not at war with Islam, we’re at war with people who have perverted Islam and who are claiming to be Islamic extremist, Islamic jihadists, in order to advance their own legitimacy.”
“I understand the criticisms that are being leveled at the president, but they missed the broader point. 20,000 foreign fighters, folks from the United States, from Great Britain, Germany, France are flooding into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS’ fight. We should not help ISIS by strengthening the perception that this is a war of Christianity against Islam. It’s not. It’s a war of the modern world against a group of medieval radical extremists who happen to be Muslims and are misclaiming a Muslim heritage and religious authority.”
Coons, who tweeted Monday that he was “horrified by the video of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being beheaded by ISIS terrorists, unspeakable hatred and unthinkable extremism,” said he thinks “we are dedicating far too much time to splitting hairs on this point.”
“They are Islamic, they are extremists,” the senator said. “They are Islamic, they are extremists. Our president is trying to be careful about not claiming that this is a war between Christianity and Islam. Does that make sense? It’s a simple, powerful point.”
Coons, though, stressed that he thought it was important to point out the faith of the Egyptian victims. In its original statement on the massacre, the White House called the Copts “Egyptian citizens.”
“I commend the president for convening a global summit on fighting extremism in all forms, but I do think it’s important to emphasize at times when ISIS’ victims are Christians, I called that out,” he said.
“And I point to the fact that it was Coptic Christians who were murdered in Libya. When they murdered the Yazidis in Iraq, which is another religious minority and Christians, I pointed out the fact that they were massacring religious minorities including Christians. It is important to emphasize that they claim to be legitimate Muslim jihadists, but their legitimacy has been rejected by every respected leader of the Muslim world.”