American policy currently avoids the term “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic radical” to—if I understand the president’s position—avoid appearing to be at war with Islam. Republicans, though not themselves addicted to calling a spade a spade, see the Administration’s persnickety word crafting to be indicative of weakness, as if we aren’t quite sure whether the terrorists are Muslims or Methodists.
So while Republicans and Libertarians are attacking what they see as the president’s inaction (or hiding while Rudy Giuliani “rages against the dying of the [spot]light”*), Democrats are scampering around deciding how to argue the point. If the president’s reasoning doesn’t catch on, they don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the argument. And after all, the Islamic State’s profession of faith is a just a wrongheaded perversion of Islam. It isn’t the real thing. Right?
OK, I’ll give the president the benefit of the doubt as to whether refusing to verbally tie terrorism to Islam is a tactic needed to keep Islamic countries—those that are ostensibly our allies—in the fold. After all, if we are against Islam, as possibly signaled by linking radicalism and Islam, Saudi Arabia and friends might be offended. I don’t mean to sound snarky; there may be serious, even judicious geopolitical reasons for a little obfuscation here. The president might be correct or not; I can’t tell. But what is more important is that his detractors can’t either.
But just between us bloggers, we’ve no diplomatic niceties to worry about. And in view of that, let me say that the radical, extreme Muslims of ISIL, Al-Qaida, and the like are just that, Islamic terrorists. I do understand that all Muslims are not terrorists; I even understand that no more than an incredibly small percentage of Muslims are terrorists. But that minority status in no way stops them from being real Muslims, nor does it stop the minority from being a tail that wags the dog, as terrorist groups have historically often done.
The church of my youth claimed to be the only real Christians. Baptists, Catholics, and Mormons were perversions of Christianity. Similarly, the Catholic Church saw itself as the real Christianity and Protestants the perversion. Only a few years ago after I referred to the horrid acts of Christians in the Dark Ages, a close Baptist friend let me know that those things were done by Catholics, not Christians!
So exactly how do we as non-Muslims decide which Islam is the real Islam and which the fake? In fact, how can Muslims decide that except by using the egocentric solution—a method not known for its integrity?
It seems popular among Western leaders to say that the Islamic State is a perversion of Islam, therefore not really Islamic. As if to prove that point, the theological subtlety was cleared up by President Obama when earlier this month he assured us that “no God condones terror.” (George W. Bush got us accustomed to having a Pastor-in-Chief, so perhaps I should give Obama a little room on this. . . . but I won’t.) Oh, that helps a lot.
I wonder where he got that sentiment about gods and terror. He surely didn’t get it from the Bible or the Koran, each chock full of God-condoned human violence on large scales as well as small. Like the shameful Viet Nam War statement that “we have to destroy a village to save it,” Christians have used terror, mass killings, and vicious treatment to spread or reinforce their idea of godliness. My point is not that Christianity and Islam are or have been equally cruel–and certainly not in the present age—but that the notion that no god condones terror is patently ludicrous.
(Parenthetically . . . should we have used, when applicable, phrases like Catholic Inquisition, Baptist lynching, Anglican persecution, Calvinist witch-killing, and other similar pairings of violence and perpetrators?)
In short, there is no way to distinguish between real Islam and perverted Islam. They are both perversions of reason and that, in the long run, is the more salient travesty. We are left with (a) the unsatisfying definition that Islam is anything someone self-declared as a Muslim says it is and (b) in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, religion-linked terrorism is almost entirely a Muslim phenomenon.
[*I so much wish I’d thought of the “raging” quote. But, alas, I must credit the creativity of Wayne Barrett or Paleo (sorry, I can’t be more specific).]