Politics & Policy

Just Don’t Call It Islamic

ISIS militants prepare to execute Syrian prisoners.
Obama thinks he can wish away Muslim terror by denying it.

The Islamic State beheaded another American this week. The Obama administration’s response revealed its stubborn determination to deny reality.

Peter Kassig was a former Army Ranger and emergency medical technician who was moved by the suffering of Syria’s civilians and returned to the region after his discharge to provide aid. He helped some of the 1 million Syrian refugees who have fled into Lebanon, using his own funds to buy supplies like diapers and other necessities, and driving an ambulance into Syria. He was kidnapped in October of 2013.

According to those who analyze such things, something went wrong with the video of Kassig’s beheading. It wasn’t caught on tape. We can speculate that the former Ranger had enough strength left to fight back. Perhaps his was not the only blood on the sand. In any case, ISIS felt obliged to offer video of Syrian soldiers’ beheadings instead, together with a tutorial on the history of the Islamic State, which began as a cell of al-Qaeda. The Islamic State executioner joked over Kassig’s severed head, “He doesn’t have much to say.”

President Obama condemned the atrocity, saying that Kassig “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group.” He continued, “While ISIL revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict.”

Hold on. Peter Kassig converted to Islam and took the name Abdul-Rahman, but only in captivity. President Obama’s insistence upon using his Islamic name reflects his continuing belief that by denying Islamic extremism, he can promote peace. “ISIL’s actions represent no faith,” he said, “least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own.”

When someone converts at the point of a sword, in hopes of saving his life, is that “adopting the Muslim faith as his own”? Whom is Mr. Obama respecting by using the Islamic name — Kassig, or his executioners?

The New York Times explained it this way: “The president used the Muslim name that Mr. Kassig adopted after his capture, making the point that the Islamic State had killed a fellow Muslim.” If that’s the motive for using the Islamic name, it raises this question: Who does Mr. Obama imagine is unaware that the Islamic State kills Muslims? Certainly in the very tape confirming the beheading of Peter Kassig, ISIS provided graphic and high-definition evidence of the execution of 13 Syrian soldiers. They weren’t Baptists. A recent UN report depicts widespread ISIS terror and horror across Syria and Iraq. “Executions have been recorded in Aleppo, Raqqa, Idlib, Al-Hassakeh and Deir Al-Zor provinces,” according to a Reuters account. “Witnesses saw scenes of still-bleeding bodies hanging from crosses and of heads placed on spikes along park railings.”

But Mr. Obama is still at pains to protect the good name of Islam. He condemns the barbarism of the Islamic State and other terrorists, but feels the need to quickly add that their crimes “represent no faith, least of all” Islam.

Least of all? The president is living in an alternative reality. Throughout the Muslim world, extremism is in full bloom. Only a minority of Sunni extremists travel under the name al-Qaeda. Others are called al-Nusra (Syria) and AQIM (North Africa) and ISIS (Syria and Iraq) and Wahhabi (Saudi Arabia) and Boko Haram (Nigeria) and Abu Sayyaf (Philippines) and Taliban (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (Pakistan) and al-Fatah (Palestinian territories) and Hamas (Gaza). The Shia extremists include the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah (Lebanon), and the Madhi Army of Iraq.

Most Muslims worldwide doubtless want only to be left in peace. They are the first, but far from the only, victims of a movement that has taken the Islamic world by storm, and that Barack Obama thinks he can wish away by denying.

— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. © 2014 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Most Popular

White House

The Anti-Trump Effort Backfires

No one following the Russian-collusion and related dramas should be in any doubt about the steady flow of the balance of damaging evidence away from Trump and on to his accusers. It is clear that the hierarchy of the FBI and analogues in the Justice Department and intelligence services, horrified at the thought ... Read More
Science & Tech

The Real Deal With the Tech Giants

A bit of dialogue from the old television series Person of Interest, where a reclusive billionaire programmer and a former CIA agent use a giant supercomputer to predict crimes and save people: FINCH: Hester's living off the grid. No photos online and nothing on the social networking sites. REESE: I've never ... Read More

Viva l’Italia?

Italy has just had elections, with very interesting results. I wanted to talk with Alberto Mingardi, which I have. He is one of the leading classical liberals in Italy -- the director general of the Bruno Leoni Institute, in Milan. (Mingardi himself is Milanese.) He is also an authority in arts and letters. In ... Read More

Putin and the Cult of Leadership

On Sunday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won an unsurprising reelection-campaign victory against Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, by a margin of 76.7 percent to 11.8 percent. The results were unsurprising because Putin is a tyrant who murders or imprisons political rivals, and who isn’t afraid to use ... Read More

Trump and Brexit Derangement Syndrome

I am not one of those Brexiteers who believe that Brexit and Trumpism are essentially the same phenomenon in two different countries. To be sure, they both draw on some of the same political trends, notably a distrust of elites and an upsurge of popular anger over evident failures of public policy such as illegal ... Read More

Stand Up to Putin

President Putin’s landslide victory in Russia’s presidential election was achieved against the lackluster competition of a group of mediocre candidates from which the sole serious opponent had been excluded; amid plausible allegations that his security services had tried to poison two Russians in England by ... Read More

Nordic Welfare States Worsen the Gender Gap

Following International Women's Day 2018, a host of policies have been promoted as ways to advance women's careers. CNBC, for example, has run a story arguing that policies such as parental leave for both parents can raise women’s incomes. In the Huffington Post we can read that adopting the welfare policies of ... Read More