By Amir Taheri
“This is not true Islam,” President Obama has again insisted of the Islamic State and other terror groups. That he doesn’t realize this is not for him to say is only one of his elementary errors here.
The three-day White House conference on “violent extremism” exposed anew Obama’s inability or unwillingness to understand the challenge of Islamist terrorism, let alone to lead the fight against it.
The conference was billed as a global event bringing together people of different views from more than 60 countries. In practice, however, it acted more as an echo chamber for Obama’s politically correct approach.
“Violent extremism” is misleading, to say the least. (Is there extremism without violence?) The generic term obscures the fact that we face a specific form of terrorism rooted, nurtured and waged in the name of Islam.
Obama did defend his evasion: “Al Qaeda and ISIL [a k a ISIS] and groups like it . . . try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam,” he said. “We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.” Operatives of al Qaeda and ISIS “are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists,” he said.
In fact, these terrorists now call their outfit the Islamic State, or IS, under a caliph. And no higher authority has the legitimacy and power to challenge their claim.
Islam has no mechanism for excommunication. Individuals can leave the ummah and be regarded as apostates (murtad). But no one who swears he is a Muslim can be excluded.
Even very bad Muslims are still Muslims as long as they haven’t thrice publicly rejected the two testimonies. (The two testimonies are accepting the oneness of God and that Muhammad is His Prophet.) Thus, neither Obama nor anyone else is qualified to decide who is a Muslim — or what is “true Islam.”
Islam does allow believers to part ways with anyone they deem misguided or deviant. At the theological level, this is known as Itizal (seeking solitude). At a more mundane level, we have Bira’ah (self-exoneration). The “violent extremists” charge their foes within Islam of Takfir (covering up the truth).
Yet Muslims aren’t using any of these three mechanisms to denounce the Islamic State or other Islamist terror groups. We’ve seen no Bira’ah marches in any Muslim-majority country, nor organized efforts by Muslim “communities” in the West to “exonerate” themselves from the IS throat-cutters.
If Islamic leaders can bring a million people in the streets of Tehran, Islamabad or Cairo to burn the US flag and Obama effigies, how is it that they do not authorize Bira’ah marches against IS?
“Ordinary” Muslims may feel that, since Obama insists that IS has nothing to do with Islam, there’s no need for Bira’ah.
Go to any mosque in any democratic country and you’ll hear sermons filled with a “lite” version of the same tale of Muslim victimhood that the “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi churns out in cyberspace.
Obama’s analysis has other faults.
At the conference, he said: “If we are going to prevent people from being susceptible to false promises of extremism, then the international community has to offer something better” — specifically, “economic growth and devoting more resources on education, including for girls and women.”
This is painfully naïve. The “Caliphate” isn’t recruiting among the world’s downtrodden. Its administration is run by highly educated individuals, many from wealthy families in Arab countries as well as Pakistan, Russia, China and Afghanistan.
The “caliph” has also attracted at least 15,000 jihadis and volunteers for martyrdom from almost all Western democracies. Indeed, more Western citizens are fighting for the “caliph” than against him.
His army, including many women from the West, does not consist of poverty-stricken individuals protesting against Western imperialism and oppression, as Obama implies.
They all seem fairly well-fed and stylishly dressed, bearing smartphones and expensive Swiss watches and cruising in bullet-proof limos.
To say that IS has nothing to do with Islam is disingenuous and dangerous.
IS is part of Islam, though Islam cannot and must not be reduced to IS or any other throat-cutting outfit. Humanity, including the overwhelming majority of “ordinary Muslims,” faces a growing movement dedicated to conquering the world for its brand of Islam.
While humanity is not at war against Islam, a part of Islam is certainly at war against humanity. To ignore that fact amounts to a dereliction of intellectual responsibility.