But in making the valid distinction five years ago between Islam and Muslim extremists, the president committed the same error that he made two weeks ago at the White House. America stands with true Muslims against false Muslims, the president averred in Cairo, “because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children.” As if the jihadists believe that those whom they decry as heretics, infidels, and apostates are innocent.
In Cairo, the president also recognized that reality is more complicated. He rightly called for greater democracy, tolerance, and protection of women’s rights in the Muslim world. His gently phrased admonitions both suggested that Islam harbors tendencies that conflict with the principles of liberal democracy and affirmed that the Islamic tradition has moral resources that can be brought to bear to condemn the violence perpetrated by Islamists and embrace the principles of liberal democracy.
But does the president believe his own admonitions? Why, five years after the Cairo speech, with the Middle East from Libya to Iran rocked by a surging Islamism, and with an Islamist threat mounting in Europe, the United States, and Australia (last Thursday, Australian counterterrorism forces detained 15 suspects in connection to an alleged ISIL plot to commit public beheadings in Sydney and Brisbane) does he insist on sugarcoating matters?