By Brittany M. Hughes, September 3, 2014
One day after the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) released a video showing the brutal beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff–the second American journalist ISIS has decapitated on video–Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech saying that Islam is a “peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings,” and that ISIS is not “the real face of Islam.”
“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. That’s ISIL,” Kerry said at a ceremony honoring Shaarik Zafar, who was just appointed as the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities.
“The face of Islam is not the nihilists who know only how to destroy, not to build,” he said. “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,” Kerry said. “It’s one where Muslim communities are leading the fight against poverty. It’s one where Muslim communities are providing basic healthcare and emergency assistance on the front lines of some of our most devastating humanitarian crises. And it is one where Muslim communities are advocating for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the most basic freedom to practice one’s faith openly and freely.
“America’s faith communities, including American Muslims, are sources of strength for all of us. They’re an essential part of our national fabric, and we are committed to deepening our partnerships with them,” Kerry added.
Kerry condemned Sotloff’s murder, as well as the killing of American journalist James Foley in July. As with Sotloff’s murder, ISIS filmed Foley’s beheading along with the threat to continue killing Americans unless President Barack Obama ceased ordering airstrikes against ISIS.
The United States “used every single military, diplomatic, and intelligence tool” to prevent the murders, Kerry said.
“For so many who worked so long to bring Steven and other Americans home safely, this obviously was not how the story was meant to end. It’s a punch to the gut,” he said.
“And the United States government, I want you to know, has used every single military, diplomatic, and intelligence tool that we have, and we always will,” Kerry said. “Our special operations forces bravely risked a military operation in order to save these lives, and we have reached out diplomatically to everyone and anyone who might be able to help. That effort continues, and our prayers remain as they always are, with the families of all of the hostages who remain trapped in Syria today.”
Kerry also highlighted the State Department’s “mission” to “unite religious communities,” explaining that “it’s a delusion to think that anyone can just retreat to their own safe space.”
“Why now have we made this such a mission at the State Department? Why elevate our engagement at a time when world events to some people seem so hopelessly divided along sectarian lines? And the answer is really very simple: It’s a delusion to think that anyone can just retreat to their own safe space, not when people of all faiths are migrating and mingling as never before in history,” he said.
“The reality is that our faiths and our fates are inextricably linked. And that is profoundly why we must do this now, because they are linked.”