Obama: I don't say "radical Islam" because it's not helpful

“I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this,” Barack Obama responded to Jake Tapper when pressed on why he won’t talk about “radical Islam.” The question came from a Gold Star mother at last night’s veteran’s forum on CNN, explaining that her son died fighting radical Islamist terrorism and it might be nice if the Commander in Chief acknowledged its existence. Obama thanked the woman for her family’s sacrifice, and then explained that he didn’t think it was helpful to lump a billion Muslims in with a handful of murderers:



The truth of the matter is that this is an issue that has been sort of manufactured, because there is no doubt, and I’ve said repeatedly that where we see terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda or ISIL, they have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse, for basically barbarism and death.

These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves — there’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do. But what I have been careful about, when I describe these issues, is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country.

The latter may be a fair point, but Obama and his team never seem to tire of lumping murderers here at home into the millions of law-abiding gun owners, or the NRA that represents him. I guess that’s more politically helpful to Obama.

The problem with the first part of that answer is that al-Qaeda and ISIL are hardly alone in promoting armed jihad within Islam. The vast majority of Muslims are law abiding, but it’s not just a few nutcases that argue for imposing their faith by force and terrorism; it’s enough of a strain within Islam that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt has called for a “revolution” among Islamic scholars to root out terror-supporting clerics and theologians, and perhaps even entire schools of Islamic doctrine. The terror strain is strong enough that Iran bankrolls terror groups that have that aim, and Saudi Arabia spreads a different form of triumphalist and fundamentalist Islam through its own auspices.


It didn’t just come out of nowhere, and not naming the problem isn’t making Muslims elsewhere any more interested in helping to solve it. Sisi seems to think that talking about it in clear terms helps, so why shouldn’t we do the same?

As the answer progressed past this clip, Business Insider notes that Obama seemed to push the topic towards a certain politician:

“I’ll just be honest with you, the dangers where we get loose in this language, particularly when a president or people aspiring to become president get loose with this language, you can see in some of the language that we use, in talking about Muslim-Americans here and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests in who can come in the country and who’s investigated and whether the Bill of Rights applies to them in the same way,” Obama said.

Tapper immediately jumped on Obama’s hint, from which Obama then retreated:

Tapper: Just to interject…

Obama: Yes?

Tapper: You were clearly talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, just then. You think his…

Obama: No, I wasn’t. But…

Tapper: You weren’t?

Obama: No, I…

Tapper: Well, you just said…

Obama: I would just say this, Jake, because…

Tapper: …aspiring to this office…

Obama: No, but it’s not unique to the Republican nominee. And again, I’m trying to be careful. We’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this. I think that there have been a number of public figures where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans.


He didn’t want to insert partisan politics into this? Puh-leeeeeeze. Just to be clear, the Bill of Rights does not extend to those wishing to emigrate to the US; it applies to them once they’re here. A religious test on entry is impractical and bad for all sorts of reasons, but it’s not unconstitutional. As Evan McMullin rightly argues, we need to have good relations with Muslim governments and Muslims around the world if we are going to defeat the radicals, especially given the significant size and influence of the radicals. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t scrutinize those who wish to come to the US, and we certainly have to start pressing the truth of the problem of radical Islam if we want to come to grips with its danger and consequences.

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