No one is surprised by Obama’s statement during his most recent speech to the nation this past Wednesday that the Islamic State (sorry, excuse us, “ISIL” sans the articulation of “Islamic” anywhere in the nomenclature) has nothing to do with Islam. Got it. In fact, we’ll even grant the president that he knows which version of Islam among the many claiming to be the true Islam is in fact Islam. We suppose for present purposes against our better judgment that he has some secret intel that he personally discovered—a secret text, perhaps, buried in the Kaaba that descended from Heaven to earth that lists all of those groups that for all eternity might claim the mantle of “true Islam.”
But, alas, Obama’s only proof (that he can disclose to the public—the secret text remaining unrevealed because it is labeled “Top, Topper, Toppest Secret”) is his follow on “proof” of his claim to know ISIL is not Islamic:
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.
Ah, so we the public, who do not have access to the top secret unrevealed holy writ, are left to know ISIL is not Islamic because it is not in fact a religion. (The safe unspoken premise, and one we agree with of course, is that Islam-the-peaceful-version, is a religion.) And we know ISIL is not a religion, and not just because Obama says it is not. The president actually provides the rationale for his statement: no religion condones the killing of innocents, or most certainly not the innocents of its own adherents.
We are fascinated, literally so, that commentators just let this statement about what constitutes a religion go without even a word. Surely the president had the opportunity while he studied at Harvard and other fine schools to read a little history about religious wars by religious men using murderous methods. Even if Obama might mean that such murderous methods could not be part of a proper religious doctrine per First Amendment standards—this is just plainly wrong. True enough that the murderous parts of a religion would not be protected any more than ingesting peyote or engaging in public animal sacrifices would be (assuming the forbidding law was truly one of neutral applicability), but the outlawing of certain bad “religious” conduct would not rob the religion of First Amendment protection generally. (This is why we have always resisted those who would try and make the argument that Islam—yeah, the violent one—is not a religion but a military, political, legal movement or “ideology.” It is certainly the latter, but it is most definitely also a very serious religion—even if it is an ugly, murderous, and dangerous one).
While you don’t need to accept the fact that Islam—yeah, the violent one—is a religion, or one that we would recognize as such, to defeat it in war as long as you oriented on the “ideology’s” threat doctrine for war making, it most certainly makes fighting the war more difficult. Why? For the obvious reason. If Islam—yeah, the violent one—is not a religion and thus has nothing to do with Islam the peaceful one, how do you orient on the violent one’s ability to attract new converts from the adherents of the peaceful one? That is, why can Islam—yeah, the violent one—recruit so successfully from a religion of peace with which it has nothing in common? Why don’t ISIL and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood recruit new converts from alienated Christians and Jews—or for that matter, Buddhists and Hindus living in oppression by the hundreds of millions? The Mapping Sharia study published in 2011 makes this point, we might add humbly, in spades.
All of this discussion is of course a bit tongue in cheek if not trite, but that just makes our opening fascination about the silence on this point all the more fascinating. Don’t you think even a little fascinating?
The problem we face in the West generally is manifest in this fascinating observation. We find it almost impossible to say that there are good religions and absolutely atrocious religions . . . that there are good peoples and murderous peoples. But there are.
It is why the American nation and People (to the extent a singular People remains) is simply better and more moral than any other on the face of the Earth—pretty much as Obama closed out his speech (trying to be a bit Reaganesque but not pulling it off at all). America is just plain better than the rest of the world: more courageous, more charitable, and more forgiving.
But this just returns us to the almost trite once again. The West appears incapable of recognizing that evil is not simply a thing that somehow infects a man in his sleep and takes over his body only to escape to another later in the night. There are evil people that can know no redemption. Recall that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. These evil people form religions and Peoples and those religions and those Peoples are evil.
Evil is a quality—a character trait some men who make up religions and peoples possess and treasure. It is not an aberration but very much a part of nature. Don’t ask us lawyers to explain it theologically—we can’t, but we are sure that many might suggest some transcendent explanation. We remain in Job’s corner on this one, and just have faith in a good and just God and figure we are just too small and petty (yes, and trite) to grasp the mind of God. But God granted us the ability to know evil and to avoid it like the plague when we can and to stomp it to death when we cannot.