February 20, 2015

Mr. President: Islamic Extremism Exists. We are Its Ultimate Enemy. Deal With It.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIslamic extremism is deadly. Its declared enemies are Christians, Jews and non-conforming Muslims, and all others whom it considers to be infidels or apostates. It, indeed, is antithetical to Western Civilization. It has clashed and will continue to clash with mounting ferocity with America and our allies.

And yes, Mr. President, it is a religiously motivated movement. Saying, indeed insisting, that it isn’t doesn’t change that reality. We will not make progress in dealing with Islamic extremism if we refuse to acknowledge its existence. It is not just terrorism plain and simple. It is, contrary to the President’s pronouncements this week at the White House Conference on Countering Violent Extremism, a religiously motivated terrorist movement. It is called Jihad and to recognize Jihad as anything other than a religious movement – indeed a religious imperative, assures we will fail in our attempts to address this deadly problem. We recognize that jihad has more modern and benign interpretations, and we respect the interpretation that defines jihad as a spiritual struggle, but its widespread meaning today is warfare against the infidel. That’s us — and the rest of the civilized world.

Not all anti-American terrorism is religiously motivated. Some terrorists just hate America. But terrorism that is practiced by the Islamic State, its affiliates, acolytes and other similar religiously fanatic sects is a product of religious extremism – invariably, Islamic Extremism.

President Obama, foolishly in our opinion, has tried to rally world leaders to join us in stopping religious fanatics like those who have joined the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and, now, Yemen, by insisting that this deadly and religiously inspired movement has nothing to do with Islam. “The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie. And all of us, regardless of faith, have a responsibility to reject it,” Obama said during a speech at the State Department to representatives from more than 60 countries.

That we are not at war with the totality of Islam is, of course, true. We aren’t and should never be. But we are at war (or had better be) with a rapidly growing, metastasizing and deadly movement within Islam. It will not burn out of its own excesses, nor will it temper its unrestrained orgy of horror simply because it creates revulsion among civilized people everywhere. Modernity itself is the central enemy of this movement and the revulsion it creates is a central objective. The President’s protestations that it has nothing to do with Islam is laughable to the Islamists and, truth be known, laughable to most Muslims who have turned westward to distance themselves from the dramatic leap backward that is roiling so much of the Islamic world.

It was painful to watch and listen to the Administration report that 21 men were beheaded because they were Egyptian citizens and not because they were Egyptian Christians. The linguistic gymnastics the White House and State Department spokespersons go through to avoid using the word “Islamic” in the same sentence as radical or extremist or fanatic would be comical if weren’t so sad.

President Obama, trying to get beyond the semantics of the battle that lies ahead, opined that the world must remain “unwavering” in the fight against terrorist groups like ISIS and promised that the U.S. “will not relent” in its campaign to fight the organization that has gobbled much of Iraq and Syria. Those portions of Iraq and Syria (and perhaps Yemen), which are, today, controlled by the Islamic State now constitute, according to those who control the land, a Caliphate. That is no small matter. Control of land is integral to the very meaning of the word Caliphate and without control of the land the movement collapses.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure the security, the prosperity and the human rights of our citizens,” Obama said. “We are here today because we are united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.” Well, this kind of violent extremism and terrorism didn’t materialize out of a vacuum. It materialized out of scripture, Islamic scripture.

“They are not religious leaders. They’re terrorists,” Obama said about ISIL and al Qaeda’s leaders. Well, that’s quite debatable. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu’minin or Caliph Ibrahim. To his followers, and now there are thousands of them, he is Caliph Ibrahim, their religious leader. He is known to have lived a Spartan life in a room attached to a small local mosque in Tobchi, a poor and ramshackle neighborhood on the western fringes of Baghdad, inhabited by both Shia and Sunni Muslim residents. He attended Islamic University, and American and Iraqi intelligence analysts in 2014 said Baghdadi has a doctorate in Islamic studies. He also has a familial pedigree that qualifies him to be a Caliph. Like it or not, Al-Baghadadi is, indeed, an Islamic religious leader. Thousands follow him as such, and the President’s protestations that he isn’t a religious leader are both unhelpful and revealing. It demonstrates how little we appear to understand.

New York Times op-ed writer Roger Cohen, however, understands the reality of what we face quite well.

“After a Danish movie director at a seminar on “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression” and a Danish Jew guarding a synagogue were shot dead in Copenhagen, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the prime minister of Denmark, uttered a familiar trope:

 “We are not in the middle of a battle between Islam and the West. It’s not a battle between Muslims and non-Muslims. It’s a battle between values based on the freedom of the individual and a dark ideology.”

 This statement — with its echoes of President Obama’s vague references to “violent extremists” uncoupled from the fundamentalist Islam to which said throat-cutting extremists pledge allegiance — scarcely stands up to scrutiny. It is empty talk.

 Across a wide swath of territory, in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, the West has been or is at war, or near-war, with the Muslim world, in a failed bid to eradicate a metastasizing Islamist movement of murderous hatred toward Western civilization.

 To call this movement, whose most potent recent manifestation is the Islamic State, a “dark ideology” is like calling Nazism a reaction to German humiliation in World War I: true but wholly inadequate. There is little point in Western politicians rehearsing lines about there being no battle between Islam and the West, when in all the above-mentioned countries tens of millions of Muslims, with much carnage as evidence, believe the contrary.”

Over the more than 13 years since Al Qaeda attacked America on 9/11, Cohen observed, “we have seen trains blown up in Madrid, the Tube and a bus bombed in London, Western journalists (and others) beheaded, the staff of Charlie Hebdo slaughtered, Jews killed in France and Belgium and now Denmark. This is not the work of a “dark ideology” but of jihadi terror.” Cohen could have added the practice of burning captives alive to his litany of Islamic extremist terror.

 Cohen continued, Only Arabs can find the answer to this crisis. But history, I suspect, will not judge Obama kindly for having failed to foster the great liberation movement that rose up in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Inaction is also a policy: Nonintervention produced Syria today.”

We suggest President Obama ponder the conclusions drawn by Graeme Wood writing in Atlantic Monthly: Wood makes the point that the Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Woods concludes that the reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. “Yes,” he observes, “it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combated, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Ironically, President Obama’s insistence that Islamic State and it’s lookalikes aren’t Islamic is self defeating when confronting Islamic terrorism. Ultimately, this war can only be won within Islam. We can provide enormous help, but only contemporary Islam can successfully defeat archaic, radical Islam. The more the President of the United States tells the world that there is no issue with Islam; the less modern Islam will be emboldened to confront those who are vying for the heart and soul of their religion. Modern Islam is in a death struggle with the likes of ISIS, Boku Haram, Al Qaeda and many other Islamist clones.

It is a disservice to those within Islam who will, sooner or later, have to draw a line in the proverbial sand if modernity, indeed, civilization itself is to survive within Islam. Sadly, it seems, almost everyone gets it except the President of the United States.

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5 responses to “Mr. President: Islamic Extremism Exists. We are Its Ultimate Enemy. Deal With It.”

  1. Denise DeLorey says:

    Well done. I have bought the most recent Atlantic
    magazine to continue to educate myself. My 90
    year old dad is reading this article at the present time.

    I plan on having my dad read your excellent commentary
    immediately after breakfast. I agree with you completely–
    President Obama’s lack of leadership is detrimental to
    the safety of the U.S. and around the world.

  2. Dave Hanna says:

    Spot on commentary gentlemen. Many thanks for the usual insight and well versed thoughts.

  3. steve hardy says:

    Very good. For more on this this subject Google “Sam Harris on Islam” or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ_oTeMpHMw

  4. susan duman says:

    I heard The President the other day.
    I read David Brooks this AM.
    Then I read your information and insights.
    If our leadership and government are so missing the point, we are all in trouble.
    Thanks for your relentless investigation into what’s going on.

  5. Janice Marcus says:

    I agree that you have done a good job with the facts….its your conclusion that I question. Please google Texas Muslim Capital day/ anti Muslim protesters. The average person doesn’t take the time to study the issues carefully and then decides all Muslims are evil and dangerous. The President in his wisdom is trying to prevent or minimize undeserved attacks on innocent people.

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