The Official White House Terrorist Identification Chart

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Analysts and journalists have remarked that an inability to examine the religious dimension of terrorism is a chief flaw of President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism strategy. In arguably this week’s most widely read article on ISIS, Graeme Wood wrote: “pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

Examples of this reluctance to frame Islamic extremism in explicitly religious terms have been abundant in recent weeks. In the wake of jihadi attacks in Paris, several high-profile administration figures repeatedly refused to identify the incidents as instances of “Islamic extremism,” and earlier this month, Obama told that terrorist Amedy Coulibali “randomly shot” Jews in a kosher grocery store (which, incidentally, he also mistakenly called a “deli”).

The White House’s most recent statement insisted that ISIS’ violence is “unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity.” Whether motivated by American politics or mere tone-deafness, the claim instead comes across as a disinclination to recognize simple facts: ISIS strategically targets certain religious undesirables for elimination.

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