Listen up: The pope's words come at an important time. Ever since Islamic State started grabbing headlines — and even before — talking heads from Bill O'Reilly to Bill Maher have often conflated Islam with radicalism, contending that the religion has an intrinsic propensity for violence.
But as Francis reminds us, it's disingenuous to take a small, radical subset of a religion and apply their beliefs to a vast, global population — around 1.6 billion people, to be more precise, or nearly one-quarter of the world's population. After all, it wouldn't be fair to project the actions of a few Christian fundamentalists onto the 1.2 billion people Roman Catholics Francis leads.
Francis's stance also marks a departure from his predecessor: Back in 2006, former Pope Benedict sparked protests for making remarks that seemingly linked Islam to violence.
Entirely different things: One can take a firm stance against Islamic State without condemning Islam. In conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Francis reaffirmed that Islamic State is "an extremist and fundamentalist group" subjecting communities in Syria and Iraq to "barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity," and called on Muslim leaders around the world to take a more vocal stance against the group.
"I told the president that it would be beautiful if all Islamic leaders, whether they are political, religious or academic leaders, would speak out clearly and condemn this because this would help the majority of Muslim people," he said.
As the pope's trip to Turkey demonstrates, it's possible to condemn the actions of an individual sect without calling an entire religion into question. The international community needs to present a united front against Islamic, and this interreligious dialogue is a good start.