Quotes of the day

During the summit’s closing session Thursday at the State Department, Obama urged delegates from 65 countries to “confront the warped ideology” espoused by terror groups, particularly efforts to use Islam to justify violence.

“These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy and all [of] us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative,” Obama said, using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State.


According to Obama, these groups base their claims to legitimacy on falsehoods and selective readings of Islamic texts. Obama’s position seems to be that the leaders of these groups aren’t sincere in their beliefs. He suggests that what ISIS is really after is power, as if its obsessive focus on acting in accordance with practices that were widespread in the days of Muhammad is merely window-dressing for thuggery and theft. But why do the leaders of ISIS have to be insincere in their beliefs in order for us to reject their brutality?

Might the president be acting in deference to America’s Muslim allies? For decades, the United States has worked closely with Saudi Arabia, a state that has enthusiastically spread a form of Islam widely viewed as puritanical and chauvinistic, to combat Islamist terrorism. You might not like Saudi Arabia and the various Gulf petrostates that have proven such unreliable friends. I certainly don’t. But try to imagine waging war on terrorist groups rooted in the Arab world without them. So perhaps Obama, like Bush before him, is engaging in a sophisticated from of diplomacy by telling the world that while we choose to remain silent on the radical Islam practiced by our friends, we will insist at every turn that the radical Islam practiced by our enemies is not Islam at all.

What could be wrong with this approach, if its intention is to strengthen our alliances in the Muslim world? A lot, actually. First, the Saudis are our allies not out of any great affection for our heathen ways, but because our interests happen to align. There is no need to condescend to them with talk of Islam as a religion of peace. Second, and more importantly, loose and lazy talk about what is and is not authentic Islam might actually undermine efforts to dissuade Muslims from embracing terrorist violence. When Obama condemns one radical theology that cuts against American national interests while papering over others that don’t, he practically invites cynicism and distrust.


ISIS may be a perversion of Islam, but Islamic it is, just as Christian beliefs about the sanctity of the unborn child explain why some Christian fundamentalists attack abortion clinics and doctors. But, of course, murderous Christian fundamentalists are not killing many thousands of civilians a year. More than 80% of the world’s terrorist attacks take place in five Muslim-majority countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria — and are largely carried out by groups with Islamist beliefs…

Last year, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi named himself caliph, which means that in his own mind and in the eyes of his followers he is not only the leader of ISIS but the overall leader of Muslims everywhere. These beliefs may seem like a crazy delusion to most of us, but it’s important to understand that they are theological in nature, and this theology is rooted in ultra-fundamentalist Islam.

ISIS sees itself as the vanguard army that is bringing back true Islam to the world. This project is of such cosmic importance that they will break any number of eggs to make this omelet, which accounts for their murderous campaign against every ethnic group, religious group and nationality that they perceive as standing in their way. ISIS recruits also believe that we are in the end times, and they are best understood as members of an Islamist apocalyptic death cult.

What does that mean for policy makers? It means that the only truly effective challenges to this reasoning must come from Islamic leaders and scholars who can make the theological case that ISIS is an aberration. This, too, is an Islamic project; it is not a jobs project.


At the summit meeting, President Obama gave the conventional materialistic explanation for what turns people into terrorists. Terrorism spreads, he argued, where people lack economic opportunity and good schools. The way to fight terror, he concluded, is with better job-training programs, more shared wealth, more open political regimes, and a general message of tolerance and pluralism.

In short, the president took his secular domestic agenda and projected it as a way to prevent young men from joining ISIS and chopping off heads.

But people don’t join ISIS, or the Islamic State, because they want better jobs with more benefits. ISIS is one of a long line of anti-Enlightenment movements, led by people who have contempt for the sort of materialistic, bourgeois goals that dominate our politics. These people don’t care if their earthly standard of living improves by a few percent a year. They’re disgusted by the pleasures we value, the pluralism we prize and the emphasis on happiness in this world, which we take as public life’s ultimate end…

Extremism is a spiritual phenomenon, a desire for loftiness of spirit gone perverse. You can’t counter a heroic impulse with a mundane and bourgeois response. You can counter it only with a more compelling heroic vision.


The Obama Administration believes that people everywhere share the same basic values as Western civilization: we all negotiate in good faith to seek positive-sum solutions (this is the fallacy that drives administration policy on Iran), we all prefer an uncomfortable peace to war, and we are all more or less motivated according to Maszlow’s hierarchy. This is Prof. Landes’ meaning of cognitive egocentrism. Despite tremendous evidence pointing to the fact–and it is a fact–that the people we are fighting are zero-sum barbarians who glory in brutal war motivated by religious fanaticism, our leaders are more comfortable thinking that, deep down, they’d be happier manning the check-out lane at Wal-Mart.

It is, of course, terribly out of fashion to acknowledge that different people in different societies are different. Far more fashionable is the obnoxious bigotry that everyone–yes, everyone–is pretty much exactly like us! Hurrah!

Fashionable or not, we can no longer afford leaders who refuse to believe their lying eyes about the motivations and values of radical Islamists. Are there deep-seated reasons for cultures becoming what they are? Of course. But we can’t go back to school every time someone beheads one of our journalists. We can’t have leaders who agonize about root causes and long-term economic development while Coptic Christians are butchered by the dozen.


Engaging in acts of deception and self-deception is unwise. Yet that is precisely what Mr. Obama is doing. He persists in putting forth a false narrative that he insists is a true one. And then there is the supreme arrogance of the president, assuming that his pronouncements about Islam will be received by the Muslim world like pronouncements of the Pope will be received by the Catholic world. Of course, this is a man who declared that if elected president he would stop the rise of the oceans and heal the planet, so it shouldn’t shock us that he believes his shallow and incomplete theological interpretations of Islam will carry weight across the Islamic world.

Memo to Mr. Obama: They won’t. Having you lecture the Islamic world about the true nature of Islam actually strengthens the jihadists, who will be thrilled to get in a theological debate in which the Christian president of the United States offers one view and Islamic jihadists and imams offer another…

To be sure, militant Islam is not a dominant current of thought within Islam. But it is a current of thought that exists and is particularly malevolent and virulent. If Mr. Obama understood this, he might be more prepared to combat it and defeat it. And defeating it on the battlefield is, at the end of the day, the best and really the only way to delegitimize it in the Muslim world. To show them and the world, including the Islamic world, that we are the “strong horse” and they are the “weak horse.”


The president and his underlings somehow reason that the answer to the barbarity of ISIS and al-Qaeda is to “empower local communities” here and abroad. Apparently, if the community organizers rouse the rabble to demand that government address “injustice” and Muslim “grievances,” the alienation that purportedly drives young Muslims into the jihadists’ arms will abate. This is the strategic political aspect of the Left’s denial of terrorism’s ideological roots: If terrorism is not caused by Islamic supremacism, then it must be caused by something else . . . and that something somehow always manages to be a government policy opposed by the Left: insufficient income redistribution, running Gitmo, our alliance with Israel, surveillance of radical mosques, etc. Smearing your political opponents as the root cause of mass-murder attacks — it’s a very nice weapon to have in one’s demagogic arsenal…

There is also likely to be continuing upheaval as reformers square off with fundamentalists, so the “true” Islam could change. Moreover, our politicians are elected by an overwhelmingly (probably over 97 percent) non-Muslim country. Muslims by and large do not care what nonbelievers think the essence of Islam is. And if it were not for terrorism, most of us would neither give Islam a second thought nor care what Muslims thought about America and its Judeo-Christian roots. (How much time do you spend wondering what Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes is the “true” Christianity?)…

But whether the Islam of the jihadists is “true” or “false” is irrelevant to us. What matters about sharia supremacism is that many millions of Muslims believe in it. It is a mainstream interpretation of Islam that has undeniable scriptural roots and inevitably breeds violent jihadists.

We must protect the United States regardless of whether they are right and regardless of how Islam’s internal strife is resolved – if it ever is.


After spending about 200 hours combined over the last few weeks, analyzing every word and symbol in the burning video of the Jordanian Air Force pilot and the execution video of the Coptic Christians, we can tell you that both videos reveal Islamic State strategists, propagandists and recruiters are very much grounded in a logical interpretation of the Quran, the hadith, or sayings and traditions of the prophet Muhammad, and fatwa, or religious rulings…

Doing a verbal tap dance around Islamic theology and extremism, even calling it “whatever ideology,” Obama and his policy team have it completely wrong. We have to own the issue of extremist Islamic theology in order to defeat it and remove it from our world. We have to name it to tame it.

Among Muslims, stuck in face-saving, shame-based cultures, we need to own up to our extremist theology instead of always reverting to a strategy of denial, deflection, and demonization…

Muslim leaders have to realize that grievances expressed on the streets—like the tragic murder of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., last week—become the material of terrorism videos, and we have to lead our communities out of a culture of “wound collecting,” and toward a pathway for positive, progressive healing.


So please don’t insult Neville Chamberlain by comparing him to Obama. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, because conspiracies are generally a comforting illusion: the real problem with Obama is that the citizens of the global superpower twice elected him to office. Yet one way to look at the current “leader of the free world” is this: If he were working for the other side, what exactly would he be doing differently?…

“Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding,” says the President. You might think that Islam has been entirely irrelevant to “the fabric of our country” for its first two centuries, and you might further think that Islam, being self-segregating, tends not to weave itself into anybody’s fabric but instead tends to unravel it – as it’s doing in, say, Copenhagen, where 500 mourners turned up for the funeral of an ISIS-supporting Jew-hating anti-free-speech murderer…

If you were a “moderate Muslim”, what would you make of an extraordinary week in which the global superpower has piled up a mountain of preposterous, mutually contradictory official lies all designed to flatter you: Islam has been part of the fabric of America since the 18th century, and yet the plight of Muslims in this country and the discrimination they face has never been worse. We are at war with the mysterious shadowy Empire of Violentia-Extremistan, which is nothing to do with Islam, yet necessitates the saying of Muslim prayers – and Muslim prayers only – at official US government events…

We are at war with a depraved enemy, but we cannot be allowed to assert our moral superiority even to head-choppers, rapists, slavers and immolators. Thus the priority of Barack (“Hey, how ’bout those Crusades?”) Obama has been to undermine our sense of probity, and make us not merely equivalent to but worse than our enemies. That was the purpose of this last week of Official Lies.


Via RCP.

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