President Trump did not shy away from calling an Islamist terrorist by his real name when he addressed the heads of state of some fifty Muslim countries over the weekend in Riyadh.
His language and his message were clear: the United States needs the leaders of Arab Islamic nations as partners. As non-Muslims, we can not eradicate the scourge of a terrorism that draws its source from authentic Islamic texts, nor can we cast out terrorist leaders who model themselves on Mohammad, the prophet of Islam.
Indeed, that is what the Manchester bomber did, blowing himself up in order to kill the children of the Unbelievers. (Quran 3:151: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.”)
ISIS proudly draws on the Quran, and the Sura – the Life of the Prophet Mohammad – to justify its actions and its manner of imposing Sharia law over territory it controls.
In its training manuals and propaganda videos, ISIS regularly calls on young Muslims to join the ranks of the jihad, because it is their duty as good Muslims. How can they say this? Because Mohammad himself told them.
Indeed, there are 164 well-known versus in the Quran where Mohammad calls on Muslims to fight the Unbelievers and carry out jihad.
“I hear so many people say ISIS has nothing to do with Islam – of course it has. They are not preaching Judaism,” says Aaqil Ahmed, a Muslim who is the religion and ethics editor at the BBC.
“It might be wrong, but what they are saying is an ideology based on some form of Islamic doctrine. They are Muslims. That is a fact and we have to get our head around some very uncomfortable things,” Mr. Ahmed went on.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia knows this. Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq knows this. Egyptian president al-Sissi knows this. So does King Abdallah II of Jordan and all the other leaders President Trump met at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh.
None of them blushed when the President spoke these “very uncomfortable things” in his speech on Sunday. They know that it is up to them to lead the fight against the jihadis and “drive them out,” as the President said – not because the jihadis represent the true face of Islam, but because they are the forces of Evil in today’s Muslim world, whose first victims tend to be Muslims.
Enter Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster.
In a five minute interview with FoxNews host Bret Beier in Riyadh, Gen. McMaster swept away all the gains the President had just made.
He acknowledged that the President had used the term “Islamic terrorism” in his speech, then immediately tried to back away from it.
“These are not Islamic people. These are not religious people. These are people who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their criminality. It’s a political agenda,” McMaster said of ISIS. “And you saw great agreement on that in all the speeches yesterday. King Salman used almost the same language.”
But King Salman did not use almost the same language. Instead, he acknowledged that ISIS terrorists “consider themselves as Muslims” and that they drew their inspiration from periods of Islamic history outside the “bright eras… of mercy, tolerance and coexistence.”
Gen. McMaster returned to the Obama-era white-washing of Islam and denial of Islamic doctrine, bending over backwards out of fear of offending Muslim leaders whose support we need to fight ISIS.
While one can hope that the damage he did to the budding anti-jihadi alliance will be transitory, and that wiser officials with a more sophisticated knowledge of Islamic doctrine will be put in the forefront of our cooperation with potential Muslim allies, ISIS leaders must be laughing at the foolishness of McMaster’s words.
Of course their allure draws its source from Islam’s earliest days, when Mohammad and his armies put their enemies to the sword, pillaged their cities, raped their wives, enslaved any survivors, and plundered their crops.
ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the Manchester bombing. We will learn soon enough whether Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who murdered so many innocents, acted alone or was part of a larger cell.
But what we know for sure is that the ideology motivating him to mayhem wasn’t Judaisim or Christianity or some “perverted interpretation” of them. That ideology was Islam as practiced by Mohammad and his followers.
Sugar-coating Islam’s blood-soaked history will not end terrorism. It will not convince young wannabe jihadis to put down the sword of Islam.
Instead, we need serious, effective programs that attack the causes of radicalization, programs devised by Muslims that speak to Muslims, programs that convincingly reject the jihadi doctrines on which ISIS is based.
The newly-created Center for Combating Extremism established by the Saudi government may be a step in the right direction. But as the President said, we also need the Saudis and other Arab Muslim leaders to drive the jihadis and the preachers who inspire them “out of the mosques” and out of the public square.
We cannot succeed in this monumental task when the National Security Advisor turns the President’s steely injunctions against Islamist terrorism into mush.
We are fighting an ideological enemy. We will never defeat him if we refuse to name the ideology that inspires him.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.