Since 9/11, the relationship between Islam and terrorism has been subject to intense debate. The War on Terror's unfortunate legacy has at times included the misinformed equating of all Muslims with terrorist inclinations or extremist ideologies.
The concern over the actions of emergent threats like ISIS only add fuel to the rhetorical fire on both sides. U.S. President Obama is finding that out the hard way.
At Wednesday's White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, Obama declared that the U.S. was not at war with Islam, but with extremists who have twisted Muslim doctrines to serve their agendas . He has also pointedly referred to groups like ISIS as "violent extremists" rather than "radical Muslims."
Those remarks have already elicited sharp criticism. To some, Obama is being too soft in his policies and his rhetoric on Muslim terrorists.
Former New York mayor Rudy Guliani has openly questioned Obama's love for America and accused him of cowardice . Texas Senator Ted Cruz accused Obama of being an "apologist" for radical Islam .
Yet terror groups that profess Islamic doctrines aren't the only sources of violent extremism.
As Peter Beinart points out in The Atlantic, a number of notorious terror attacks against the U.S. have been committed by "committed by radical environmentalists, right-wing extremists, and Puerto Rican nationalists." Muslim terrorists, in fact, comprise only a small sliver of previous terrorist acts against the U.S.
So maybe Obama's preference for "violent extremism" over "radical Islam" is more than political correctness. Perhaps it's an effort to remind us to not neglect the other potential threats to American security.