The debate over what to call the Islamic State, the extremist organization that has created chaos in the Middle East over the past few years, is convoluted and controversial. In recent statements, however, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has made it even more so by labeling the group "apostates."
Kerry's repeated use of that word — a term to describe someone who renounces or abandons their religion — has raised many eyebrows. The Islamic State and other extremist groups justify their attacks on fellow Muslims by accusing them of apostasy — a crime that, they argue, is punishable by death.
Speaking to WorldViews on Monday, a State Department official suggested that Kerry was aware he misspoke when he used the word. "Secretary Kerry was simply trying to make a very strong case about the degree to which these terrorists do not represent Islam or the Muslim faith," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. "He recognizes that the use of that particular word may not have been the best choice. The larger message is valid. That is that [Islamic State militants] do not act and certainly do not speak for vast majority of Muslims around the world."