In Washington, they are practically praying for a Christian terrorist. At a breakfast in January, President Obama reached all the way back to the Crusades for an example of violence purportedly motivated by Christian extremism. Days later, when three Muslims were murdered in Chapel Hill, social media erupted with demands that Christians be called upon to condemn the attacks in the same way that Muslims are called upon to condemn acts of Islamic terrorism, and the disappointment was palpable when the man charged with those murders turned out to be a militant atheist and Rachel Maddow fan who was angry about a parking dispute.
State Department flack Marie Harf, fresh off her jobs-for-jihadis bit, offered up Joseph Kony — a practitioner of Ancholi mystical traditions with 88 wives, a flair for Biblical apocalypticism, and, if we take him at his word, 13 spirits (one of them Chinese) dwelling within him — as an example of “Christian militant” terrorism. This isn’t new: Timothy McVeigh (agnostic) and John Salvi (a schizophrenic who believed himself to be one of the thieves crucified with Jesus and who obsessed over an imaginary scheme in which the Vatican would issue its own currency) have been presented from time to time as evidence that the violent jihadist tendency is not limited to the religion of which jihad is a central tenet.
Meanwhile, in the real world . . .
President Barack Obama, who still believes that his job consists of giving speeches, convened a “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism,” the purpose of which was to provide a platform for the president to give a keynote speech. In it he insisted, as he does, that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, and that arguments to the contrary only lend credibility to the Islamic terrorist organizations that have nothing to do with Islam. He cited a letter from a fifth-grader, a Muslim girl named Sabrina, who wrote: “If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn’t mean all of them do.” President Obama was impressed with these remarks — “the wisdom of a little girl,” he called them. If the alternative is Marie Harf, we suppose he could do worse.
Of course, no sensible person walking the earth believes that every Muslim on the planet is an al-Qaeda sympathizer or an Islamic supremacist. The problem is that (1) some of the world’s Muslims do sympathize with Islamic-supremacist views, (2) there are an awful lot of them, and (3) Islamic organizations are the preeminent practitioners of terrorism around the world at the moment.
President Obama can try to explain to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his colleagues that their project is not a genuinely Islamic one. Drop Joseph Kony off at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and his eccentric syncretism is revealed for what it is, but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islam is the Islam of millions in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Egypt, in Indonesia. Radical Islam is a longstanding part of Islam, not an amendment to it.
One group of powerful Muslims who do not like hearing this: the regimes of U.S. allies from Morocco to Pakistan. President Bush was solicitous of their sensitivities as well. But if we have a common enemy, our Muslim allies cannot complain when we name it accurately. Indeed, it would be useful if they did so, too.
The worst thing that one can be in Barack Obama’s world is a bigot. Racism is the original sin, and other forms of discrimination, from the genuine to the superficially similar, are corralled into the same moral category — which is why, for example, progressives treat traditional-marriage laws like the anti-miscegenation laws of old, even though homosexuality and race are fundamentally different human phenomena. To Obama’s mind, the frank acknowledgment that the world has a problem with savagery rooted in a particular religion is an invitation to invidious discrimination — an invitation to becoming something even lower than al-Qaeda. And so the endless cheerleading for Islam and the search for comparable acts of barbarism by Christians or others, the purpose of which is to make sensitive people feel that we aren’t singling out Islam for criticism and scrutiny.
Of course we are singling out the Islamic world for criticism and scrutiny — as we should. The president in his speech praised Islamic scholars who “preach that Islam calls for peace and for justice, and tolerance toward others; that terrorism is prohibited; that the Koran says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.” He added: “Those are the voices that represent over a billion people around the world.”
Are they? The president is begging the question — asking the question would make him uncomfortable (though, to his credit, he does acknowledge that since “groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL are deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, particularly Muslim youth . . . Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back”).
As the president correctly notes, the Islamic State is at the moment a much bigger problem for the Islamic world, which is bearing the brunt of its violence, than for the West. But as the monuments in Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania remind us — as the victims of “workplace violence” at Fort Hood remind us, as the plugged-up bullet holes at LAX remind us — it is our problem, too. Barack Obama is not the president of the world; he is the president of the United States, and his principal duty is seeing to our national security. Wishful thinking and sentimental letters from fifth-grade girls will not solve the problem — not when the president cannot even quite bring himself to say, honestly and forthrightly, what the problem is.