By Robert SpencerJihad Watch
This just in: Islam is a religion of peace. So said Barack Obama yet again on Sunday in India. Even though he was repeating conventional boilerplate that he has repeated many times in the past, and that the Bush Administration repeated before him, his statements in Mumbai signaled his determination to keep the United States firmly committed to the policy errors that flow from this mistaken assumption.
Obama was visiting St. Xavierâ€™s College in Mumbai, just a short walk away from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the sites of the November 26, 2008 jihad attacks in which Islamic supremacists murdered 173 people and wounded another 308. Given the setting, it was not surprising that a student at St. Xavierâ€™s asked Obama this question: â€œWhat is your take or opinion about jihad? Or jihadi, whatever is your opinion, what do you think of them?â€
Obama initially seemed taken aback, fumbling for an answer: â€œWellâ€¦â€ Pause. â€œYou know, uhâ€¦â€ Pause. Then he fell back on some clichÃ©s from back in Great World Religions class: â€œThe phrase Jihad has lots of meanings within Islam, and is subject to a lot of different interpretations. But I will say that first, Islam is one of the worldâ€™s great religions.â€ Having begun mining the boilerplate, he finally hit something resembling a stride:
â€œAnd, uh, more than a billion people who practice Islam, the overwhelming majority, uh, view their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm peace and justice, and fairness and tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence against innocent people that is never justified.â€
There was no surprise in any of that. Obama invokes the great unicorn in which we all must believe (on pain of charges of â€œbigotryâ€ and â€œIslamophobiaâ€) but which no one has ever actually seen: a moderate, mainstream and traditional form of Islam that does not teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. The peacefulness of individual Muslims does not establish the existence of this peaceful form of Islam, although many believe that it does, because when these peaceful Muslims are challenged on Islamic grounds by jihadists and Islamic supremacists, they are vulnerable: jihadists get recruits and justify their actions among Muslims by appealing to Islamic teachings and presenting themselves as the authentic Muslims. Peaceful Muslims must challenge that if â€” if â€” they really wish to lessen the influence jihadists have within Islamic communities.
But one thing is certain: none of that is going to happen. Obamaâ€™s commitment to the idea that Islam is a religion of peace that has been distorted by a few extremists is rock-solid and unshakable, and so it is important to note some of the policy errors that flow from it and will continue to do so:
1.The pressuring of Israel. The Palestinian conflict against Israel is, at its foundation, an Islamic jihad; if it werenâ€™t, it would have ended long ago. There have been innumerable attempts at a negotiated settlement, and each one has failed because of Palestinian intransigence, which is founded in the idea that land ruled at any time by Muslims belongs by right to Muslims forever, and non-Muslims (particularly Jews, the worst enemies of the Muslims according to Qurâ€™an 5:82) have no right to establish a state on such land.
This is why no Palestinian faction has ever recognized Israel, despite numerous promises to do so, and why Obamaâ€™s attempt to hammer out yet another negotiated settlement is doomed to fail, like all of its predecessors, to bring about anything resembling a lasting peace. Obama is assuming, because Islam is a peaceful religion that has been distorted by â€œa few extremists,â€ that the vast majority of Palestinians want â€œpeace and justice, and fairness and toleranceâ€ for themselves and for the Israelis. This misapprehension ensures that his peace initiatives are foredoomed.
2.The coddling of Iran. Obamaâ€™s hand outstretched to Iran has become the object of international ridicule, including from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself, but the American president appears undaunted. He continued to reach out to the Islamic regime in Tehran even as it was massacring its own people in the streets in the summer of 2009 â€“ and missed an opportunity at that time to voice support for the Iranians who were standing up to that regime and risking their lives in hope of a better life. Underlying his relative indifference to the Islamic Republicâ€™s human rights abuses may be his assumption that Islam is a peaceful religion that has been distorted by â€œa few extremistsâ€; if that is so, how bad can an Islamic Republic be?
3.The mainstreaming of American Muslim groups with links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Virtually all of the highest-profile and most influential Islamic advocacy groups in America today have links of various kinds to Hamas and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is dedicated in its own words to â€œeliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.â€ These include the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), and others. While the FBI no longer works with CAIR, the Obama administration has had contact on numerous occasions with ISNA officials â€“ and there is no public recognition at its highest levels that there is anything questionable about these groups at all. And why should there be? Islam is a religion of peace!
4.The outreach to the Islamic world. Obamaâ€™s Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Rashad Hussain, was in Mali recently to strengthen the U.S.â€™s commitment to aiding the Islamic world. It has been a primary focus of Obamaâ€™s presidency, even to the point of redefining NASAâ€™s mission from space exploration to Muslim outreach. All of this, from the disproportionate to the absurd, stems from the core assumption that since there is nothing wrong with Islam, if Muslims are angry at us, it must be because of something we have done â€“ and therefore we must set out to fix it.
Unfortunately, such repair work is not easily done â€“ as even an Islamophile like Obama has discovered. In response to this â€œdistortionâ€ of Islam, Obama recommended that the distorters be â€œisolatedâ€:
â€œAnd so I think one of the challenges that we face is how do we, uh, isolate those who have these distorted notions of, uh, religious war, and reaffirm those who see faiths of all sorts, whether you are a Hindu, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Jew, or, uh, any other religion, or you donâ€™t practice a religion. And we can all treat each other with respect and mutual dignity, and that some of the universal principles that Gandhi referred to, uh, that those are what weâ€™re living up to, as we, uh, live in a nation, uh, or nations, that have very diverse religious beliefs.â€
Yet as Obama has tried to â€œisolateâ€ these â€œextremists,â€ he has earned the ire of other Muslims who are sympathetic to them. Some of them demonstrated against him in Indonesia a few days ago, on the grounds that his foreign policy was not sufficiently different from that of George W. Bush. The president may be forgiven if he was surprised by the vehement reaction against him from members of a group he has worked so hard to court. He may have assumed that if he showed good will and willingness to compromise and make concessions, his gestures would receive a like response from Islamic leaders. And why shouldnâ€™t he have assumed such a thing? After all, itâ€™s a religion of peace!