While perusing Twitter on Monday, I came across this cryptic message via RedState’s Erick Erickson:
Today on CNN I learned there’s no such thing as radical islam. It is “a made up idea."
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) May 11, 2015
What could it mean? Surely, I thought, some context must be lacking from this quote. Credulously, I suppose, I could not comprehend that a statement as irresponsible and utterly detached from any empirical reality could have been uttered by a reputable commentator, much less someone given a national platform on a network like CNN. It was not long before I regretted reserving judgment.
On Monday, Dean Obeidallah, a comedian and an advocate for American Muslims, joined CNN anchor Carol Costello to talk about a controversial Saturday Night Live sketch about the potentially deadly practice of drawing cartoon images of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Already, you know what follows is going to be enlightening.
The segment began uneventfully with Obeidallah defending the right of Muslim-Americans to take umbrage when their faith is insulted, but not to go so far as to react violently to perceived slights. Few would take issue with that perfectly reasonable position, but the segment did not end there.
Satiating what she must have presumed was her audience’s juvenile need for an antagonist, Costello summoned Erickson to serve as the black hat for this segment. Erickson observed that militant Islam was likely “emboldened” by the American media’s reaction to the terrorist attack in Garland, Texa; a reaction that was dominated by media figures wringing hands over how Pamela Geller had irresponsibly provoked two aspiring terrorists into attempting an act of mass murder.
This same patronizing self-opprobrium from the press culminated in an Associated Press tweet on Thursday that noted Geller has no regrets “about Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that ended in two deaths.” Those “two deaths” were the would-be mass murderers who were killed by law enforcement amid an attempt on the lives of Geller and her conference’s attendees. The moral inversion on display in this dispatch published on AP’s official Twitter account should be visible to all well-adjusted observers.
This shameful display is what Erickson was referring to, but Costello declined to concede he had a point lest she engage in some deliberative introspection.
Obeidallah did not appear to rebut Erickson so much as the voices in his mind when he noted that SNL’s writers were not mocking the notion of radical Islam, which he was quick to note was a “made-up idea.” Perhaps knowing that he had stepped on a landmine, Obeidallah was quick to assert that there are, in fact, radical Muslims, but there was no such thing as radical Islam.
Obeidallah has a point when he and others lament the fact that some seem to expect Muslims to denounce every act of violence committed by a fellow member of their faith. That same expectation is not imposed on other faiths when a coreligionist engages in violence, and it is an act of undue stereotyping to demand all Muslims account for the behavior of others who share their faith. Obeidallah undermines the validity of that complaint, however, when he claims outright that the notion of radical Islam is an invented concept.
One does not reach into history to demonstrate that radical Islam exists. In the last year alone, radical Islamist terrorists has set the Middle East alight, created nascent caliphate states in countries ranging from the Niger Delta to the Persian Gulf, and exported deadly faith-inspired mass terrorism to Western nations. The notion that this phenomenon is occurring only as a result of some clever marketing campaign is laughably ridiculous.
And if Obeidallah were paired with an objective interlocutor, his assertion would have been met with laughter. Not only did Costello treat Obeidallah’s point with far more sobriety than it merited, but she went on to issue a hearty laugh when the comedian called Geller a “well-compensated, anti-Muslim bigot.”
“Yes, I know we have seen some small percentage of Muslims respond to offensive images with violence,” Obeidallah insisted in a column on the subject. “But who defines Muslims in America? Is it the two gunmen or the other 5 million-plus Muslim Americans who responded to Geller’s hateful antics with a collective yawn?”
He’s right. The vast majority of Muslim-Americans are assimilated into American society to such a degree that they do not react with violence to provocations of the sort in which Geller regularly engages. Those who did react violently, the two Garland attackers, were radicalized after they became infatuated with a strain of Islam that animates ISIS sympathizers – a strain of Islam Obeidallah apparently claims does not exist.
It is the same strain of Islam that led a set of assassins to murder American author and blogger Avijit Roy with a machete after he spoke out against Islamic extremists in his native Bangladesh. It was this strain that strain of Islam that led an overzealous film critic to plunge a knife through Theo Van Gogh’s chest. It has led to lone wolf attacks in New York City, Sydney, and Ottawa. It has led to gun battles on the streets of Brussels. It was that strain of Islam that left 12 dead in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and has inspired two retaliatory attacks on defiant cartoon drawing events attended by those brave souls who rage against the dying of the light of enlightened Western liberalism.
Obeidallah apparently contends that all these and countless other acts of violence committed in Islam’s name are simply a series of isolated incidents. Now that’s comedy.