President Obama's assertion Wednesday night that the Islamic State terrorist group "is not 'Islamic'" is drawing derision from a number of quarters.
The claim, also made by Obama's predecessors, is "preposterous," Daniel Pipes wrote for the National Review Online. "To state the obvious: As non-Muslims and politicians, rather than Muslims and scholars, they are in no position to declare what is Islamic and what is not."
Author Sam Harris, an atheist who challenges all religions, went further, dismissing Obama's argument as a "scrim of pretense and delusion."
"Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder?" Harris wondered in an essay. "It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates 'innocent'? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is 'no.'"
But Obama's argument echoes statements made by Muslim American leaders during a news conference Wednesday morning. "All of this is against the foundation and teaching of Islam," former Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Mohamed Magid told reporters. He also is a member of the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council.
The Quran includes numerous passages encouraging violent jihad and inspiring hatred of non-believers, Harris notes. Robert Spencer offers specific examples here, and asks why the Islamic State has become such a magnet for wannabe jihadists if it was not seen as inherently Islamic.
But instead of acknowledging those verses and debating their modern application, the president used a nationally televised speech to act as if they do not exist. Harris blames "a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths."
We saw that in action during Wednesday's news conference at the National Press Club.
It's a difficult sell, Pipes concludes, because of the clear theological statements and justifications Islamic State terrorists invoke for their brutality."Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaeda before it, is 100 percent Islamic. And most Westerners, as indicated by detailed polling in Europe, do have eyes and ears. Over time, they are increasingly relying on common sense to conclude that the group is indeed profoundly Islamic."