While Cameron/Obama/Bush may be lauded for trying to distinguish between ISIS and global Islam and this Twitter scandal may be mourned as an attempt to justify Islamophobia in the U.S., they are both examples of the same error: Western politicians or popular pundits cannot be the ones to say what Islam is and is not.
*Read "Does ISIS = Islam?"
At issue here is the question -- who has the right to define what Islam is and is not?
Language has power to shape opinions and to galvanize people to action. These leaders and culture shapers understand this. That is why they use essentializing terminology to declare what Islam is and is not. By becoming arbiters of Islamic identity, Western leaders seek to make essentialist claims in order to provide powerful, and useful, rallying-points for their own agendas. In these cases, attacking and destroying ISIS on the one hand, turning on Muslims in the U.S. on the other.
While artlessly defining Islam may prove useful for political purposes, it is not conducive to helping non-Muslims understand what Islam is. Concepts such as 'Islam' are not static. There is no fixed form of Islam that can be found or defined, especially by non-Muslims. Instead, Islam is a diverse stream of various forces, persistently in process, forever in flux, consistently contingent on changing cultural, political, ethnic, religious, and economic realities. Really, the language of Obama, Cameron, @Ahimla2 and others who want to say neatly that ISIS is Islamic, or it is not Islamic, is hegemony at work again -- colonial powers attempting to define the "other" in order to exert their own influence or power in the Islamic world.
My concern here is not political, it is not militaristic. Instead, it is one of religious literacy. Islam is one of the most multi-cultural, multi-generational, multifaceted, and misunderstood religions in the world, especially in the West. In order to understand Islam, we cannot apperceive it according to uncluttered constructs or uncomplicated categories. Instead, the messiness and miscellany of the Muslim world must be explored. This will often mean meeting with local Muslims, observing regional dynamics, and listening, and learning, their perspectives on global Islam. Especially in the West, we need to listen to Muslims speak about their own community, from all sides, before we begin crafting Muslim identities according to our own motivations -- be they benign or malevolent.
If Western powers or Islamophobes want to say what Islam is or is not for their own political ends, so be it. What I don't want to see is the general population getting carried away with a vision of Islam that is founded more in Western hegemony than it is global Islamic reality.