It is disturbing to note that the President Obama and his advisers are now routinely saying things about Islam and American history that are, basically, not quite true.
John Brennan, the president's top counter-terrorism adviser recently called jihad a “legitimate tenet of Islam,” and stated that “[we do not] describe our enemy as 'jihadists' or 'Islamists' because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community…”
However, a more knowledgeable voice, the respected historian Bernard Lewis, finds that "the overwhelming majority of [Islamic] classical theologians, jurists, and traditionalists…understood the obligation of jihad in a military sense."
The doctrinal interpretations of Brennan, whose parents come from Ireland, and Obama, non-Muslim Westerners with no Islamic theological training, are fascinating.
However, at least one real Muslim leader, whose interpretation has been followed by millions, appears to disagree with the White House’s interpretation of the concept of jihad.
The Ayatollah Khomeini has said: “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers … Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qur'anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”
In a recent editorial entitled “Obama’s Islamic America – What country is he talking about?” The Washington Times says, “President Obama says Islam has always been part of America, which raises the question, does the president know something about American history that we don't? …. Mr. Obama said the rituals of Ramadan ‘remind us of the principles that we hold in common and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramdan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America….’
The Washington Times says “That Islam has had a major role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings may come as a surprise to Muslim women. Young Afghan girls who are having acid thrown in their faces on the way to school might want to offer their perspectives….Most puzzling is the President's claim that ‘Islam has always been part of America.’ Islam had no influence on the origins and development of the United States. It contributed nothing to early American political culture, art, literature, music or any other aspect of the early nation.”
The Washington Times’ version of history is not as nice as Mr. Obama’s. It does, however, have the advantage of being far closer to the truth.
Mr. Obama is not uninformed. Therefore, the only conclusion is that he is deliberately distorting history and ignoring facts for political ends. I imagine he is well-intentioned in doing this, but a lasting rapprochement between the West and Islam will not be built on falsehoods. The American people deserve the truth from their President.
Obama also stated “Muslim Americans serve with honor in our military.” This is often true, but there are exceptions, such as the recent Fort Hood massacre, or Asan Akbar, who attacked his comrades with grenades in 2003.
The Cordoba Initiative, the group behind the Ground Zero Mosque, also have a penchant for rewriting history and making dubious statements. Their website says: “Despite what many think, Islam and the West have a long history of coexistence and harmony. For nearly 800 years, the city of Cordoba in Spain endured as a shining example of tolerance among the three monotheistic religions.”
This is a complete falsification of history. Sadly, Islam and the West do not have a long history of harmony, as the Crusades and almost continuous conflict for 1400 years testifies. The Cordoba Initiative harks back to the Caphilate of Cordoba as a paradise of religious tolerance. It was in fact an imperialist Islamic state which had invaded and occupied Spain, a state in which Jews and Christians were either second class citizens or slaves until the native Spanish Christians repulsed Islam from Iberia in 1492.
Yet the Cordoba Initiative continues: “there is a close similarity between the values expressed in American secular documents and those characterizing Islamic Law…”
The idea that Sharia Law bears any real resemblance to the United States’ constitution, with its Enlightenment, common law and Christian-based values is beyond parody. It is, for example, reported that Imam Rauf, the man behind the Cordoba Initiative, will not sign a document saying that apostates from Islam should not be killed. Such killing is an accepted tenet of Sharia law. However, I can’t recall reading that in the US Constitution.
The Cordoba website also says: “As for America, Muslims consistently admire aspects of the United States.” This statement is hedged, but misleading. America is, with the possible exception of Israel, the most hated nation in the Islamic world. It is also overwhelmingly disliked by Muslims within Europe and elsewhere.
There is however one statement on the Cordoba Initiative website that is certainly true:
“Americans want answers about Islam: To what extent do violent extremists actually speak for the opinions of Muslims everywhere? Is Islam a violent religion? Does it hinder freedoms or present an obstacle to democracy? Are Muslims in America a threat to Americans’ security?”
Americans deserve those answers. And it is clear that they will not get them from their President or from the Cordoba Initiative.
The world once held out great hope for an American President with Muslim family, and even a Muslim name, reaching out to the Islamic world and bringing peace and understanding. However, in stating that Islam played a vital role in American history and in setting himself up as an Islamic theologian who can rewrite history, and pronounce on the proper interpretation Islamic doctrine, Obama has departed in to the realm of fantasy. He must awake from his delusions, see the world as it is, and then seek peace on the basis of reality.
Thankfully most Muslims throughout the world are moderate in their views and abhor the extremists’ violent interpretations of their creed. However, it is vital to acknowledge that such interpretations do exist. Obama seems to want to sweep that fact under the carpet.
Last Friday the president said that Muslims’ right to religious freedom “includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan.” If that’s his opinion, fair enough.
However, the very next day he said: “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there…”
Except, very obviously, he was.
Peace will not be served by unconvincing reconstructions of the past (or of what you said yesterday) but by the construction of a new future; and that used to be precisely President Obama’s strength. When looks to the past, he looks lost and unconvincing. He used to look to the future. When he did, he offered the world hope, and his speeches chimed with the resonance of a deeper truth.
Nowadays, you just wonder whether he’s capable of telling the truth at all.
Moving to Ireland
After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned