It has become alarmingly clear since the Brussels terror attack that the West either doesn’t understand the nature of Islamist terrorism or doesn’t want to. President Obama denies that the Islamic State poses an existential threat, belittles those who disagree, and seems more vested in undermining allies and political opponents than fighting terror. Whether acting out of ideology or naiveté, he refuses to admit the role of religious doctrine and instead blames terrorism on generic criminality, violent extremism, gun violence, or global warming. He fails to address the jihad and genocide being waged against non-Muslims in the Mideast and beyond, does not speak honestly about the Islamist threat, and portrays those who do as hatemongers.
Under his administration, the U.S. has abdicated its global leadership role and left a void in which Russia seeks to reconstitute its empire, China threatens American strategic and economic interests, and Iran continues to export terror while violating a feckless nuclear deal under which it derives great benefit but makes no concessions. The president has eschewed sound military and intelligence advice in favor of policies that have destabilized the Mideast, empowered terrorists, and caused a refugee crisis that is tearing Europe apart.
Whether the administration’s foreign policy stems from ideology or incompetence, it seems to regard Islamic radicalism as a natural response to western oppression, though European entrée into the Mideast was preceded by centuries of jihad waged in Europe by Arab-Muslim invaders. Its knack for promoting revisionism is facilitated by the public’s lack of historical perspective, as reflected by the inability to recognize that ISIS is not historically aberrant, but rather embodies the same doctrine that mandated forceful spread of the faith starting in the eighth century.
Political correctness inhibits discussion of radical Islam and, thus, stifles the ability to combat the terrorism it spawns. Television coverage after Brussels showed witnesses uttering platitudes, such as, “If we stop traveling, we give the terrorists what they want”; and commentators warning that terrorists will somehow win if their religious motivations are scrutinized by the security establishment. However, such sentiments wrongly presume that terrorists merely seek to induce fear or discomfort, when in fact their goals include conquest and subjugation. Islamists don’t want to disrupt European travel plans; they want to kill “infidels” and force them into submission.
Comments from presidential aspirants this election cycle have been no better informed. The Democratic candidates predictably refused to utter the words “Islamic terrorism,” while some Republicans were overly deferential in their assessments. John Kasich, for example, acknowledged the perpetrators were Islamists, yet seemed compelled to add that “…the vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims…think their religion has been hijacked … [a]nd they want to stop that as much as we want to stop it.” But on what did he base this assertion? While moderates may well have denounced the Brussels attacks, there were no surveys indicating what the majority believed. If there were no mass condemnations of the 9/11 attacks, the Charlie Hebdo and Paris massacres, or the San Bernardino shootings, what evidence is there to suggest majority censure of this latest outrage?
Democrats and Republicans cannot begin to address the problem when political correctness inhibits them from even identifying it. If westerners really want to know the terrorists’ goals, they should read the language contained in their charters and manifestos.
They should consider Al-Qaeda’s constitutional charter, rules and regulations, which contain the following passages:
An Islamic Group, its only mission is Jihad, because Jihad is one of the basic purposes for which Al Qaeda personnel come together. In addition, they perform other Islamic duties if possible. Jihad will take precedence over other duties in case of interference.
Goals of Al Qaeda:
The victory of the mighty religion of Allah, the establishment of an Islamic Regime and the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate, God willing.
Or this excerpt from “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” by the Muslim Brotherhood:
The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.
Or this passage from Article Seven of the Hamas Charter:
…the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: ‘The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.’ (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).
Such language leaves no doubt about these organizations’ goals, which include conquering infidels, killing Jews, and destroying Israel. Americans and Europeans need to learn what drives today’s terrorism if they truly wish to defeat it; but this cannot happen if they continue hiding their heads in the sand and gushing apologetic nonsense. Neither can it happen under a president who attends a baseball game with the dictator of Cuba and dances the tango in Argentina while Brussels is reeling, or with a White House that censors comments made by visiting heads of state who dare to mention Islamist terrorism.
Mr. Obama’s recent behavior is consistent with his administration’s efforts over the last eight years to obscure the connection between radical Islam and terrorism, which efforts are echoed by progressives who romanticize terrorists as “freedom fighters” and their murderous assaults as “armed struggle.” Perhaps more disturbing is the ease with which such perceptions go unchallenged because of progressive reluctance to use judgmental terminology to describe enemies sworn to our destruction. It is the height of absurdity when opponents of a doctrine that preaches subjugation and genocide are accused of racism and intolerance.
Our milquetoast politicians will not acknowledge any doctrinal component of terrorism for fear of offending the Arab-Muslim world. Ironically, progressives who engage in such doublespeak have no qualms morally equating attacks against Jewish civilians with Israel’s responses to terrorism, or falsely labeling Israel an apartheid state. The targeting of unarmed Jewish men, women and children is irrelevant to those moral dilettantes who consider terrorism a legitimate response to so-called occupation. Unfortunately, those who control the definitional language use it to influence public perception to the point where distortions become reality and history is meaningless.
The administration’s verbal disingenuity regarding the word “terrorism” is especially poignant in light of its bowdlerization of remarks by French President François Hollande, who in an address from the White House used the term “Islamist terrorism” when discussing the horrific attacks on French soil. The phrase was deleted from video of the speech released by the White House. This is troubling, but not surprising from an administration that early on forbade mentioning the word “Islamic” in conjunction with terrorism, and which referred to attacks by Islamic extremists as “man-caused disasters” – a ludicrous term conjuring images of bridge collapses or traffic fatalities, not premeditated assaults against unarmed civilians.
The obvious question raised by this verbal sleight-of-hand is, who is the administration attempting to appease? A common dictionary definition of terrorism is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” It is difficult to see how the term would be deemed offensive by those who traffic in terror – or why we should care about offending their sensibilities in the first place. Indeed, referring to them as freedom fighters effectively legitimizes their attacks against civilians, even though such conduct violates the Geneva Convention III of 1949 and the international laws of war.
One could argue philosophically that true freedom fighters are justified in fighting tyranny and attacking strategic or military targets. But while freedom fighters with a just cause may be seen as serving a higher moral purpose, nothing justifies the slaughter of school children, hospital patients, yeshiva students, or families celebrating holidays and weddings. There is no virtue in blowing up teenagers in pizzerias or passengers on public buses, or stabbing Israelis just for being Jews. Mainstream liberals would disagree that the administration engages in such linguistic and moral subterfuge, but they cannot deny that it manipulates language to promote a narrative in which terrorism is often rationalized by illusory contextualization.
While many Americans simply do not understand the nature of radical Islam, the president endeavors to minimize its significance and doctrinal motivations. He did so in the past when he misleadingly claimed victory in the war on terror and dubbed the Islamic State junior varsity, and he does so now when he calls Islamist terror “violent extremism” and says ISIS is not an existential threat.
Clearly, if Americans want to understand the nature of the threat, they’ll have to look for answers beyond the administration’s partisan dissimulation.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Arutz Sheva.