The Corner

Why Can’t President Obama Tell the Truth about ISIS’s Faith?

President Obama has been in office for more than five years, has seen countless classified reports of terrorist activities and intentions, and has watched as the Islamic State, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the full range of jihadist groups have committed one barbaric atrocity after another, and he still won’t tell the American people the truth about what we face.

While pundit after pundit has rightfully hammered the President’s absurd statement that the Islamic State “has no place in the 21st century” (I particularly enjoyed Charles C.W. Cooke’s Friday piece) and the importation of ridiculous “wrong side of history” argumentation from the American culture war, I want to focus on something else — something so manifestly untrue that its inclusion in the president’s speech is inexcusable. It’s this:

So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.

What is he talking about? The Islamic State certainly speaks for their faith. In fact, the Islamic State defines itself by faith, an their faith doesn’t just “teach” them to massacre innocents; it mandates such massacres. Moreover, their faith has long roots within Islam, with jihadist movements flaring century after century. Even if we defeat the Islamic State now, we’ll no doubt see other jihadist movements in the future. The Islamic world is plagued by jihad, and it has been for a long time.

President Obama is certainly not the only president prone to telling the American people comfortable lies about our enemy’s faith. President Bush wrapped both arms around Islam, declaring “Islam is peace.” By what standard can a president make such a declaration? There are certainly Muslims who reject jihadists, and the jihadists think those Muslims are apostates. Does the president of the United States now adjudicate Muslim theological disputes? 

Jihadists proclaim Islam — as jihadists have proclaimed Islam throughout the centuries and will proclaim Islam in the centuries to come. They have persistent power within the Muslim world not because their beliefs are “nihilist” (to use another of the president’s words) but because they are transcendent, promising eternal rewards for the faithful and eternal punishment for the infidels. Nihilism is the “rejection of all religious and moral principles.” Jihad is a war for religious and moral principles. 

Can we not tell the truth about this? Can we not also tell the truth that — far from being horrified by barbarism — thousands upon thousands of Muslim men are flocking to the Islamic State’s black banner, including more Muslim Britons than volunteer for Her Majesty’s own armed forces?

To fight an enemy we have to know an enemy, and comforting lies merely drain our will and confuse our own people. We are dealing with an enemy that (rightfully) believes that beheading videos will increase its appeal primarily among young Muslim men. Let that sink in for a moment. Atrocities increase their appeal.

No religion? Oh yes, they have a religion. And that religion wants you dead. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Elections

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Culture

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
White House

Sarah Sanders to Resign at End of June

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will resign from her position as White House press secretary at the end of the month, President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139263782142787585 Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, succeeded Sean ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More
Politics & Policy

On Painting Air Force One

And so it has come to this. Two oil tankers were just attacked in the Gulf of Oman, presumably by Iran. The United States and China are facing off in a confrontation that is about far more than trade. The southern border remains anarchic and uncontrolled. And Congress is asking: “Can I get the icon in ... Read More