President Barack Obama has finally identified the 21 Egyptians beheaded by ISIS as Christians, after initially facing criticism for failing to point out that fact in his response to the massacre. Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, congratulated Obama for taking this "first step," but also urged him to admit that the ISIS militants are "radical Islamic jihadists."
"The President acknowledges the martyrdom of Egyptians 'Christians' in Libya. This is an important and significant first step. It is well past time for the president and America's political leaders of both parties to realistically assess the world as it is, not as they might wish it to be," said Land, who also serves as the executive editor of The Christian Post.
His remarks are aimed at Obama's op-ed for the LA Times posted on Tuesday, where the president explains that America's fight is against "violent extremism."
"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," Obama wrote, using a different name for ISIS.
Christians around the world are mourning the deaths of the 21 Coptic Christians, who were kidnapped by masked gunmen from Libya in December and January. Their beheadings were recorded in a video released by ISIS, titled "A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross."
In its initial statement about the massacre, the White House only referred to the victims as "Egyptian citizens." This drew criticism from figures such as evangelical preacher Rev. Franklin Graham and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who both said Obama should have specifically identified the victims as Christians.
"The truth is — their barbaric murderers openly said they killed them because they were 'people of the cross.' Why is the president seemingly continuing to protect Islam and refusing to open his eyes to the truth?" Graham asked earlier this week.
Obama noted in his recent article that ISIS and other terror groups such as Boko Haram kill and kidnap men, women, and children, but said that such actions are rejected by the "overwhelming majority" of Muslims in the world.
"The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam. We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam," Obama wrote.
The President has on numerous occasions stated that the United States is not at war with Islam, but with the terror groups carrying out violenent attacks.
In his statement, Land observed that ISIS and other jihadists "are at war with the United States, Western civilization in general, and their fellow Muslims who refuse to knuckle under and submit to what the President calls their 'twisted interpretation of religion.'"
"It must always be remembered that the overwhelming majority of people slaughtered by the jihadists so far have been fellow Muslims," Land added.
He argued, however, that the "enemy" needs to be correctly identified, and it is not enough simply to say that it is terrorism.
"Mr. President, I commend you for correctly identifying the Egyptian martyrs as 'Christians.' Now it is time for you to bite the bullet and correctly identify the perpetrators, radical Islamic jihadists," Land wrote.