By Jonathan F. Keiler
The mainstream media and the Obama administration, like the media and governments in many Western countries, goes out of its way to excuse Islamist terror, and actively paints a picture of Muslims in the West victimized by supposed Islamophobia. This tendency is bolstered by the corresponding refusal to acknowledge Islamist terror for what it is, substituting euphemisms or generalities to cover what are clearly murderous acts done in the name of Islam. Most ludicrous of all, is the penchant — particularly by Barack Obama — to discourse theologically about the “religion of peace.” In fact, this refusal to accept reality not only excuses Islamist terror, but encourages it, and makes any reform within Islam next to impossible.
Take the recent example of the Muslim Ohio State attacker, Abdul Razak Artan. Artan blamed media for negative reports about Islam “…that put that picture in their heads…” which led to his insecurity at the university, a place where he was “…kind of scared….” Thus he rather neatly portrayed himself as a victim before attempting to murder a dozen people by running them over and knifing them. Artan’s victimized ideation was probably a fantasy since it is highly unlikely that at Ohio State he received anything but deference to his religious orientation, and explicit negative descriptions of Muslims in the American media are quite rare. More likely the mainstream media’s and the Obama administration’s false hysteria about supposed Islamophobia is what gave Artan the idea to paint himself as a victim.
A year after the brutal attack by a married pair of killers in San Bernardino, an obvious case of Islamist political terror, the Washington Post headline marking the attack reads “One year after San Bernardino attack, police offer a possible motive, as questions still linger” — quite as if there was still doubt regarding the motive of the terrorists, which even the text of the article demonstrates there is not. The official White House statement on the San Bernardino attack does not mention a motive either, nor does it mention once the word Muslim or Islam, or clearly indicate the attack had anything to do with Islamist ideology. All it says about the issue, in a purely passive legalistic tone is: “In the year since this tragedy, we have mourned those we lost, just as we have continued to confront the violent ideology behind this attack as well as the terrorist groups, including ISIL, that propagate it.”
This deliberate politically correct obfuscation of what is clearly Islamist terror is not harmless and has negative practical effects on Americans, including American Muslims. Most obviously, local police and the FBI spin their wheels needlessly “probing” for obvious motives, launching intrusive generalized searches for fear of profiling, and then act too often after the fact, when focused investigation of suspected Islamist radicals might have forestalled death or injury.
Ordinary Americans are reluctant to report suspicious behavior or comments by Muslim acquaintances or co-workers for fear of being falsely labeled as racist Islamophobes, a highly effective form of public shaming propagated relentlessly by the mainstream media, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, that effectively shields terrorists from scrutiny. And ordinary Muslims, the best potential resource for intelligence, are discouraged from cooperating with authorities or protesting acts of clear Islamist terror, since by denying any connection between Muslim terrorists and Islam, the government and media effectively free the terrorists’ coreligionists from any moral responsibility. This is reflected in notable lack of public protest or outrage within Western Muslim communities to such acts.
This last factor is perhaps the most insidious and misunderstood aspect of the misguided political correctness that dominates Western media and elites when it comes to combating Islamist terror. We have been told repeatedly that labeling Islamist terror for what it is would only forfeit Muslim cooperation in fighting it, and that even President Bush avoided it. Yet there is little proof this helps, considerable evidence that does not, and it also flies in the face of history and logic. On the international level Muslim polities act in their own best interests, and will not base critical decisions the rhetoric of Western leaders.
In fact, at least within the Arab culture from which Islam springs, flowery language and emotional overstatement are the norms in public discourse, a fact reflected in the Quran itself, and distinguished from day-to-day business. Muslim states might publicly protest tougher Western rhetoric as long as they think it will benefit them in the Western press and halls of power, but it is highly unlikely that they would forgo American expertise and assistance because an American president spoke the truth about Islamist terror. Many Muslim states quietly and effectively cooperate with Israel because it serves their purposes, even as they publicly lambaste the Jewish state.
Closer to home, how can we expect ordinary Muslim Americans to report the suspicious activity of their fellows, when even non-Muslims won’t do it? In a broader sense, how can the West ever expect Islam to change and reform itself if it is never pressured to do so, if Western elites and leaders continue to mindlessly, and yes stupidly insist that Islamist terrorism and Muslim terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda have nothing to do with Islam?
Major religious reformations rarely occur without outside pressures. Jews were moving away from temple based sacrificial practice toward rabbinic Judaism already in the time of Jesus, but the end of the period was hastened by the temple’s destruction by the Romans during the Jewish revolt. Hinduism reformed in traditionally decentralized Indian rajas under the pressures of the unified Mauryan state (which was to most of the independent kingdoms a foreign power) and then much later under British rule and its consequences. The Protestant reformation within Christendom was really as much a regional phenomenon as it was theological, pitting the secular interests of Germanic northern Europe against the Latin south. Without outside or regional pressures, major internal theological revolutions are much less likely to occur.
Today there is little Western pressure on Islamic states to initiate religious reform, nor within Western states on Muslims to do the same. Yet as the above examples suggest, there is room within every religion for substantial, even radical change. In India today the caste system is illegal, despite the fact that it developed as an integral part of Hindu theology.
Throughout its history Islam has produced rationalists who reject traditionalist ideas such as that the Quran is the actual unmediated word of God, ideas which might allow Islam to peaceably coexist within modern liberal constitutional settings. Unfortunately, these reformers have always been routed, often violently, by traditionalists who by no coincidence also dominate Islamic terror groups. President Obama is literally nonsensical every time he declaims such groups as not Islamic. His distain of rationalist Muslim moderates such as Egyptian General el-Sisi is exactly the wrong approach. Likewise, Obama’s infamous if failed attempt to cozy up to the traditionalist reactionary leader of Turkey, the clever if unstable Islamist Recep Erdogan, has proven to be, like so many of Obama’s policies, disastrous.
Ordinary Americans and Europeans are not fools. Donald Trump’s victory and a rising tide of practical nationalist opposition to self-destructive European elites are a direct response to the policies of blindness and accommodation toward political Islam. Trump is sometimes crude, but he speaks the truth when it comes to identifying Islamist terror for what it is. His presumptive Defense Secretary, retired Marine General James Mattis, knows that responding to political Islam must be a top priority. If Trump and his team can do this effectively, they will not only benefit Americans and the West, but those Westernized Muslims who with the right push, might be moved to rationally reform their own faith.