Obama attacks radical Islam and no one notices

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Islamic State flag

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Islamic State flag

Islamic State flag

Islamic State flag

“Obama Tries to Split Religion from Terrorism at Summit,” declared the Bloomberg headline. “Much to the chagrin of Republicans and others,” lead the National Journal, he “avoided rhetorically tying the actions of the Islamic State to radical Islam, or Islamic extremists.”

Actually, that wasn’t the case. Obama used his extremism summit speech not to split religion from terrorism but to tie the actions of the Islamic State to radical Islam, in a way that went well beyond his predecessor’s anodyne “Islam is peace” rhetoric.

To be sure, he did indulge in a bit of the latter, which misled the media. “No religion is responsible for terrorism,” he said, as if “NRA” stood for National Religion Association. “People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

But his point was precisely that the West is engaged in a war of ideas with radical anti-Western Islamic ideology. Let me quote the central paragraphs of the speech.

But if we are going to effectively isolate terrorists, if we’re going to address the challenge of their efforts to recruit our young people, if we’re going to lift up the voices of tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim community, then we’ve got to acknowledge that their job is made harder by a broader narrative that does exist in many Muslim communities around the world that suggests the West is at odds with Islam in some fashion.

The reality — which, again, many Muslim leaders have spoken to — is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances  — sometimes that’s accurate — does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it’s been polluted by Western values.

So those beliefs exist.  In some communities around the world they are widespread.  And so it makes individuals — especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated — more ripe for radicalization.  And so we’ve got to be able to talk honestly about those issues.  We’ve got to be much more clear about how we’re rejecting certain ideas.

I suppose that some of the President’s right-wing critics didn’t like this kind of talk because they also buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity and tolerance, and want to pump up the narrative that the West is at odds with Islam in a war of civilizations. Cleverly, Obama aimed his remarks at them too.

Last month journalist Eli Lake — no apologist for Obama foreign policy — wrote that American presidents have had to shy away from criticizing radical Islam by name because the “long war against radical Islamic terrorists requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims.” Continued Lake, in a column that the President might have cribbed for his speech:

Sadly, large pluralities of Muslims in countries allied with the U.S. in the war on terror disavow the tactics of terrorism but endorse the aims of radical Islam…

Given these popular attitudes, even the governments in the Muslim world most actively aiding in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have to tread a fine line over fundamentalist religion, and Washington doesn’t want to make that task harder.

It’s possible to imagine a world in the future where American presidents would speak plainly about radical Islam. It would likely be a world in which the U.S. stopped waging a global war on terror.

This week, Obama spoke pretty plainly about radical Islam. The media just didn’t notice it.

  • J.C. Samuelson

    It is somewhat ironic, I think, how radical groups such as ISIS have been able to shape the narrative. Western media, which thrives on discord & controversy – happy news doesn’t elicit the same kind of visceral response – is only to happy to oblige them, while world leaders must consider the political costs & benefits of their rhetoric.

    Meanwhile, opportunist media personalities, bloggers, pundits, and politicians lower on the food chain can rattle cages, talk tough, and criticize world leaders whose language seems milquetoast by comparison. This allows them to promote politicians and policies aligned with their narrative and cast the opposition as weak, while simultaneously boosting their audience numbers and ranking. If this causes them to affirm the narrative preferred by extremists, so be it.

    Anyway, as long as consumers continue to buy it, providers are happy to sell it.

  • Fourth Valley

    Surah 2:256 “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.”

    Perhaps you should read the book before you presume to tell me its contents.

  • Glenn Harrell

    But, the Sheriff, I mean Calif is back in town. What on earth does he want?

    Baghdadi is the man and it seems he is practicing Islam in spite of all attempts at proving otherwise.

    We all believe what we want and need to believe as it best suits us. If all we get is Washington slant politics with a puppy dog media we have no choice but to believe what they present.

    Most times there is truth to be found and the people we hired as the best and brightest among us actually lead with some wisdom. On occasion, we spot integrity and we don’t know what to do with it any more than they.

    But this Islam thing is troubling. We are being asked to believe what Washington insiders must know to be false information, at least lacking.

    “The reality is that the Islamic State [ISIS] is Islamic. Very Islamic.” -Graeme Wood –The Atlantic “What ISIS Really Wants. A nice read for anyone wanting to consider “the rest of the story”.

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—He is to ISIS what the Pope is to Catholicism.
    He is the source of the Islamic awakening. In the world of ISIS, the Calif rules.

    From what I read of him, he is having a nice chuckle at the diminutive Obama plan for the democratic pool party, complete with cardigan sweaters, chips and dip, that is supposed to “re-form” would be wayward youth who might become “radical” in the practice of their faith.

    It also seems that, for too many of these youth, he may as well be asking the boys not to look at the girls on Spring Break. (and the girls not to like it when they do)

    As a side-note. What does a radicalized Christian look and act like?

    “Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others.Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5 and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought” (Philippians 2:1-5)

    –Sorry Media-I know you so wanted it to be the nut jobs you present on your screens. Sorry greedy citizens who send in your money to the Seed-Faith Preachers on TV. (see “farting preacher”)

    How Radical is this? No wonder Islam doesn’t recognize Jesus as God. This makes for a pretty lame person.


    “Jesus (calif) Calls His Radical Followers Together For Care Attacks”
    “The World Attacks Radical Christianity and No One Notices or Cares”

    Moderate Muslims (in name only)are embarrassed at the actions of the “Extreme” Muslims in the same way Name only Christians hate it when Christians actually practice their faith as described above with radical flavor.

  • cken

    I can’t quote the actual Surah but if I remember correctly there is one which reads essentially “exercise patients and deception until such time as you are in a position to control or extract punishment”.

  • Larry

    Like Joshua’s use of spies in taking Jericho from Exodus. One will not learn about rules of warfare by reading religious texts.

  • Larry

    So where can ISIS send you a check?

    By demonizing Islam in favor of your own sectarian Christian biases, you just make it that much easier for them to recruit.

    “What does a radicalized Christian look and act like?”
    We have real life examples to choose from:

    Nazi Germany
    Franco’s Spain
    Croatia under the Ustasha
    Crowmwell’s England
    1990’s Bosnia under Croat or Serb control
    Honduras under Peter Montt

    In other words, dictatorial crapholes known for large scale sectarian massacres.

  • Glenn Harrell

    –Sorry Media-I know you so wanted it to be the nut jobs you present on your screens.

    –Sorry greedy citizens who send in your money to the Seed-Faith Preachers on TV. (see “farting preacher”) –

    –Sorry Larry, the Philippians pictorial will never fit what you need Jesus to be as long as you are myopically looking at scaly-wags like me and your list of the insane. You have to be smaller than us to hide behind us. (though I can’t blame you for trying)

    Most sane people would agree that ISIS needs no assistance in demonizing itself. All potential recruits do have choices for whom they will serve. Fair enough.

  • Larry

    Christians always found a use for the Bible to justify oppression and massacre before. Claiming that somehow their religious belief prevents such things is nonsense.

    You do nobody any favors by embodying the propaganda ISIS uses when they recruit. The opposite of religious radicalism is not more religious radicalism. Changing the faith involved means nothing.

  • Glenn Harrell

    “The reality is that the Islamic State [ISIS] is Islamic. Very Islamic.” -Graeme Wood –The Atlantic “What ISIS Really Wants”.

    A nice read for anyone wanting to consider “the rest of the story”.

    Larry–Curious to know if you read this and if so, what you thought.

  • Larry

    Like most of the rhetoric on the subject it only gets things partly right and misses the big picture.

    Wood got the part of Al Queda being a franchise correct. But he gets led astray by taking the rhetoric of authoritarian types seriously.

    There is a lot of secular non-ideological issues also in play here which are largely ignored. One of the reasons ISIS acts with impunity is that the Syrian civil war was a conflict none of its neighbors wanted to go anywhere near.

    Islamic State exists and flourishes because there is an appeal to successful barbarism in a failed state. They murder, steal and rape with impunity and get to spread fear. Its a license to act badly. That kind of appeal makes a lot of sense to people in the middle of a confused civil war than most ideologies would. Everybody in the area hated Syria so nobody really wanted to get involved in their civil war besides find new and interesting ways to hack territory out of it.

    ISIS is much different from Al Queda. Al Queda was much looser, more chaotic and had no real achievable goals besides causing general mayhem. ISIS seeks territory and resources to control. They want to be the next Khymer Rouge. In terms of fantasy monsters Al Queda are gremlins, ISIS are Sauron.

    ISIS would actually be an easier enemy to deal with militarily if not for the fact that the still existing Syrian government is also more or less, our enemy too.

    Egypt, Jordan, the Kurds, Hezbollah, Shia militias and most Syrians still loyal to Assad are all Muslims and all oppose ISIS. So chalking up ISIS to the beliefs common to all muslims is ridiculous garbage.

  • Larry

    Stevie, you have had nothing worth reading in any of your posts. So now you want to add atheists to the list of people you hate, nobody cares.

    And no, I still do not want a brightly colored sugary beverage from you.

  • Larry,
    Jeesh. right? Get a load of this guy.

  • Stephen,

    “Your..ego trips”

    I’m not the one who claims to have the super giant secret friend who runs the universe and who responds to my beck and call.

    Don’t call yourself humble.

  • Barry the Baptist

    Hey, all Stephens,

    Quit encapsulating all atheists within a group who cites biblical literalists for their arguments against the legitimacy of Christianity.

    You Stephens never take into account all the other arguments that atheists propose and only go after one group of atheists who you see as misguided and easily refuted.

    The problem with you Stephens is that you are supporting the Abrahamic wars by failing to understand that when you couch your rhetoric in language that paints too broad a swath over groups of people, you will always be labeled as a fringe element worthy of being glossed over.

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  • Jack

    Stephen, there is nothing in Zionism that corresponds to radical Islamism. The former is largely content with a miniscule plot of land in the vast Middle East under Jewish sovereignty — because it’s part of the historical homeland of the Jewish people. The latter wants a caliphate encompassing the entire Middle East and world — including lands that have no conceivable historical connection to itself. The former defends itself successfully against efforts to destroy it. The latter goes on rampages across every habitable continent, slaughtering people of nearly every nationality and religion, including that of Islam, in the world. The former embraces and practices the values and institutions of democracy and bedrock liberties. The latter embraces and practices a witches’ brew of medieval theocracy and modern totalitarian tyranny.

  • Jack

    Larry, he’s been bashing atheists for as long as he’s been bashing Jews and Christians, all the while claiming to be both.

  • Jack

    Stephen makes Barry the “Baptist” from Great Neck look like Albert Einstein.

  • Glenn Harrell

    And not all the people said , “Amen”

    I will certainly give a hearty Amen to your comments here Jack, but also add Palestine to the mix and ask, what now? I will expect a concise answer that forever settles this obstinate divide.

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