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An Administration Adrift on Denial: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 19, 2015 — Great essays tell big truths. A deeply reported piece in next month’s Atlantic magazine does precisely that, and in a way devastating to the Obama administration’s thinking on ISIS.
It Doesn’t Matter One Bit What Obama Thinks ‘True Islam’ Is: Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, Feb. 21, 2015—In Egypt, the president is Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a pious Muslim.
Crusaders and Appeasers: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2015 — His secretary of defense says, “The world is exploding all over.”
Bearing the Cross: A Letter to ISIS: Mark Durie, Lapidomedia, Feb. 20, 2014— The Islamic State sent me a letter this week.
'A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross': Mark Durie, Lapidomedia, Feb. 20, 2014
What ISIS Really Wants: Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, March, 2015
Betting National Security on a Theory: IPT News, Feb. 24, 2015
How to Empower Violent Extremism: Victor Davis Hanson, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 5, 2015
Obama: Christianity No Different From the Islamic State: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Feb. 6, 2015
Say It Like It Is: Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, Jan. 20, 2015
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 19, 2015
Great essays tell big truths. A deeply reported piece in next month’s Atlantic magazine does precisely that, and in a way devastating to the Obama administration’s thinking on ISIS. “What ISIS Really Wants,” by contributing editor Graeme Wood, is going to change the debate. (It ought to become a book.) Mr. Wood describes a dynamic, savage and so far successful organization whose members mean business. Their mettle should not be doubted. ISIS controls an area larger than the United Kingdom and intends to restore, and expand, the caliphate. Mr. Wood interviewed Anjem Choudary of the banned London-based Islamist group Al Muhajiroun, who characterized ISIS’ laws of war as policies of mercy, not brutality. “He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies,” Mr. Wood writes, “because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.”
ISIS has allure: Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are believed to have joined. The organization is clear in its objectives: “We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change . . . that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. . . . The Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.” The scale of the savagery is difficult to comprehend and not precisely known. Regional social media posts “suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks.” Most, not all, of the victims are Muslims.
The West, Mr. Wood argues, has been misled “by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. . . . The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers,” drawn largely from the disaffected. “But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.” Its actions reflect “a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bring about the apocalypse.” Mr. Wood acknowledges that ISIS reflects only one, minority strain within Islam. “Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”
He quotes Princeton’s Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on ISIS’ theology. The group’s fighters, Mr. Haykel says, “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition,” and denials of its religious nature spring from embarrassment, political correctness and an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.” The Islamic State is different from al Qaeda and almost all other jihadist movements, according to Mr. Wood, “in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character.” Its spokesman has vowed: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.” They believe we are in the End of Days. They speak of how “the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria.” The battle will be Rome’s Waterloo. After that, a countdown to the apocalypse.
Who exactly is “Rome”? That’s unclear. Maybe Turkey, maybe any infidel army. Maybe America. What should the West do to meet the challenge? Here Mr. Wood’s tone turns more tentative. We should help the Islamic State “self-immolate.” Those urging America to commit tens of thousand of troops “should not be dismissed too quickly.” ISIS is, after all, an avowedly genocidal and expansionist organization, and its mystique can be damaged if it loses its grip on the territory it holds. Al Qaeda, from which ISIS is estranged and which it has eclipsed, can operate as an underground network. ISIS cannot, “because territorial authority is a requirement.” But ISIS wants to draw America into the fight. A U.S. invasion and occupation, Mr. Wood argues, would be a propaganda victory for them, because they’ve long said the U.S. has always intended to embark on a modern-day crusade against Islam. And if a U.S. ground invasion launched and failed, it would be a disaster.
The best of bad options, Mr. Wood believes, is to “slowly bleed” ISIS through air strikes and proxy warfare. The Kurds and the Shiites cannot vanquish them, but they can “keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand.” That would make it look less like “the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammed. ” As time passed ISIS could “stagnate” and begin to sink. Word of its cruelties would spread; it could become another failed state. But that death, as Mr. Wood notes, “is unlikely to be quick,” and any number of things could go wrong, including a dangerous rapprochement with al Qaeda. Mr. Wood’s piece is bracing because it is fearless—he is apparently not afraid of being called a bigot or an Islamophobe. It is important because it gives people, especially political leaders, information they need to understand a phenomenon that may urgently shape U.S. foreign policy for the next 10 years.
In sorry contrast, of course, are the Obama administration’s willful delusions and dodges. They reached their height this week when State Department spokesman Marie Harf talked on MSNBC of the “root causes” that drive jihadists, such as “lack of opportunity for jobs.” She later went on CNN to explain: “Where there’s a lack of governance, you’ve had young men attracted to this terrorist cause where there aren’t other opportunities. . . . So how do you get at that root causes?” She admitted her view “might be too nuanced of an argument for some.” Yes, it might. It isn’t about getting a job. They have a job: waging jihad…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review, Feb. 21, 2015
In Egypt, the president is Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a pious Muslim. Having grown up in the world’s center of sharia scholarship and closely studied the subject, he has courageously proclaimed that Islam desperately needs a “religious revolution.” In the United States, the president is Barack Obama, a non-Muslim. His childhood experience of Islam, which ended when he was just ten, occurred in Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim country, but a non-Arabic one where the teaching and practice of Islam is very different from what it is in the Middle East. While Sisi sees a dangerous flaw in Islam, Obama believes America needs to be “fundamentally transformed” but Islam is fine as is. You see the problem, no?
Said problem was very much on display this week at the president’s “summit” on “countering violent extremism,” the administration’s euphemism for confronting violent jihad. The latter phrase is verboten because Obama will not concede the close nexus between Islam and modern terrorism. In reality, the summit had so little to do with confronting terrorism that the president did not invite the FBI director — you know, the head of the agency to which federal law assigns primary responsibility for terrorism investigations.
The summit was really about advancing the “social justice” agenda of “progressive” politics. The president and his underlings somehow reason that the answer to the barbarity of ISIS and al-Qaeda is to “empower local communities” here and abroad. Apparently, if the community organizers rouse the rabble to demand that government address “injustice” and Muslim “grievances,” the alienation that purportedly drives young Muslims into the jihadists’ arms will abate. This is the strategic political aspect of the Left’s denial of terrorism’s ideological roots: If terrorism is not caused by Islamic supremacism, then it must be caused by something else . . . and that something somehow always manages to be a government policy opposed by the Left: insufficient income redistribution, running Gitmo, our alliance with Israel, surveillance of radical mosques, etc. Smearing your political opponents as the root cause of mass-murder attacks — it’s a very nice weapon to have in one’s demagogic arsenal.
To the extent the summit dealt with Islam, it was to play the counterproductive game of defining the “true” Islam in order to discredit the Islamic State and al-Qaeda as purveyors of a “false” or “perverted” Islam. To try to pull this off, Obama relied on the bag of tricks toted by his “moderate Islamist” allies (who also turn out to be reliable progressives). In his summit speech, Obama made the concession — which was almost shocking coming from him — that ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists “do draw” from “Islamic texts.” He mocked them, however, for doing so “selectively.” The clear suggestion was that the terrorists deceive when they assert that Islamic scripture commands Muslims to, for example, “strike terror into the hearts” of non-believers, decapitate them (“smite their necks”), or enslave them. He intimated that there must be some balancing scriptures, some other side of the story nullifying these belligerent commands.
But then, almost in the next breath, the president engaged in the same bowdlerizing of Islamic teaching of which he had just accused our enemies. We should, he said, be listening to, instead of the terrorists, “Muslim clerics and scholars” who “push back on this twisted interpretation” and assure us “that the Koran says, ‘Whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.’” The Koran does indeed say that, in Sura 5:32. Yet, in the very next verse, conveniently omitted by Obama (5:33), it goes on to say: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land, is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the hereafter. That puts a somewhat different cast on the whole “whoever kills an innocent” theme, wouldn’t you say?
Which leads us to Obama’s other rhetorical chicanery. When he speaks of Islam, Obama not only takes scripture out of context; he also renders it as if there were a universal understanding of words like “innocent.” Yet when we read the above two verses together, and put them in the broader context of Islamic doctrine, we see that Islam can convey a notion of who is an “innocent” that is very different from the one we Westerners are likely to have. To be “innocent,” in this context, one must accept Islam and submit to its law. The same is true of “injustice,” another word the president often invokes when discussing Islam. The true Islam, we are to believe, is just like progressivism: a tireless quest for “justice.” But just as the Left’s idea of justice differs from the average person’s, so does Islam’s. For the Islamist, justice equals sharia, and injustice is the absence or transgression of sharia. So, while this could well have been inadvertent, Obama’s claim that injustice drives young Muslims to join terrorist groups is exactly what the terrorists themselves would say — for the imperative to impose sharia is their rationale for committing terrorism.
Obama’s seeming inability to grapple with the Islamic roots of terrorism may not be fully explained by his coziness with Islamists. In a 2005 essay, Cardinal George Pell, the former Australian archbishop (he now runs the Vatican’s secretariat for the economy), observed that in Indonesia, Islam has been has been tempered by indigenous animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a pacific strain of Islamic Sufism. Cardinal Pell described the resulting brand as “syncretistic, moderate and with a strong mystical leaning.” As I recounted in The Grand Jihad, that cannot be said for all of Indonesian Islam: There is also plenty of fundamentalism, sharia supremacism, and persecution of religious minorities, particularly of Ahmadi Muslims who reject violent jihad. Still, the practice of Islam in much of the country where the president spent some of his formative years is relatively moderate.
Things are different in the cradle of Islam, the Arab Middle East. That was the upshot of President Sisi’s impassioned speech in January. In calling for a religious revolution, he admonished the scholars of al-Azhar — who seemed cool to the warning — that terrorists in the Middle East were relying on a “corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible” even though it “is antagonizing the entire world.” Sisi is right, of course. How refreshing, how urgently necessary, for him to face the problem honestly. Nevertheless, our challenge is a different one from Sisi’s and Islam’s. It is preserving our own national security, not avoiding antagonism…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2015
His secretary of defense says, “The world is exploding all over.” His attorney general says that the threat of terror “keeps me up at night.” The world bears them out. On Tuesday, American hostage Kayla Mueller is confirmed dead. On Wednesday, the U.S. evacuates its embassy in Yemen, a country cited by President Obama last September as an American success in fighting terrorism. Yet Obama’s reaction to, shall we say, turmoil abroad has been one of alarming lassitude and passivity. Not to worry, says his national security adviser: This is not World War II. As if one should be reassured because the current chaos has yet to achieve the level of the most devastating conflict in human history. Indeed, insists the president, the real source of our metastasizing anxiety is . . . the news media.
Russia pushes deep into eastern Ukraine. The Islamic State burns to death a Jordanian pilot. Iran extends its hegemony over four Arab capitals — Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and now Sanaa. And America watches. Obama calls the policy “strategic patience.” That’s a synonym for “inaction,” made to sound profoundly “strategic.” Take Russia. The only news out of Obama’s one-hour news conference with Angela Merkel this week was that he still can’t make up his mind whether to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons. The Russians have sent in T-80 tanks and Grad rocket launchers. We’ve sent in humanitarian aid that includes blankets, MREs and psychological counselors.
How complementary: The counselors do grief therapy for those on the receiving end of the T-80 tank fire. “I think the Ukrainian people can feel confident that we have stood by them,” said Obama at the news conference. Indeed. And don’t forget the blankets. America was once the arsenal of democracy, notes Elliott Abrams. We are now its linen closet. Why no antitank and other defensive weapons? Because we are afraid that arming the victim of aggression will anger the aggressor. Such on-the-ground appeasement goes well with the linguistic appeasement whereby Obama dares not call radical Islam by name. And whereby both the White House and State Department spend much of a day insisting that the attack on the kosher grocery in Paris had nothing to do with Jews. It was just, as the president said, someone “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.” (By the end of the day, the administration backed off this idiocy. By tweet.)
This passivity — strategic, syntactical, ideological — is more than just a reaction to the perceived overreach of the Bush years. Or a fear of failure. Or bowing to the domestic left. It is, above all, rooted in Obama’s deep belief that we — America, Christians, the West — lack the moral authority to engage, to project, i.e., to lead. Before we condemn the atrocities of others, intoned Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, we shouldn’t “get on our high horse.” We should acknowledge having authored the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, etc. “in the name of Christ.” In a rare rhetorical feat, Obama managed to combine the banal and the repulsive. After all, is it really a revelation that all religions have transgressed, that man is fallen? To the adolescent Columbia undergrad, that’s a profundity. To a roomful of faith leaders, that’s an insult to one’s intelligence. And in deeply bad taste. A coalition POW is burned alive and the reaction of the alliance leader barely 48 hours later is essentially: “Hey, but what about Joan of Arc?”
The conclusion to this patronizing little riff — a gratuitous and bizarre attack on India as an example of religious intolerance — received less attention than it merited. India? Our largest and most strategically promising democratic ally — and the most successful multiethnic, multilingual, multiconfessional country on the planet? (Compare India to, oh, its colonial twin, Pakistan.) There is, however, nothing really new in Obama’s selective condemnation of America and its democratic allies. It is just a reprise of the theme of his post-inauguration 2009 confessional world tour. From Strasbourg to Cairo and the U.N. General Assembly, he indicted his own country, as I chronicled at the time, “for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantánamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.”…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Lapidomedia, Feb. 20, 2015
The Islamic State sent me a letter this week. This letter was in the form of a short film produced by the Islamic State’s Al-Hayat Media centre. This was not addressed to me personally, but to all Christians everywhere. Its title was A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross. This was a video of the ritual slaughter of the 21 Egyptian Christians. Their blood flowing in the ocean waves was the ‘signature’ at the end of the video. As I write this it is Ash Wednesday. This is the start of forty days of Lent, a period of fasting and contemplation for Christians all over the world. For many centuries it has been a custom of Christians to receive a mark of the cross in ash upon the forehead as a sign of repentance.
As I received this mark of the cross today I was thinking of the 21 Egyptian Christian martyrs. Copts permanently bear the sign of the cross, tattooed on their wrists, as a sign that they will refuse to renounce their beliefs. I intend to read out these men’s names at our morning church services this Sunday, here in Melbourne, Australia. And I also choose to honour them today by writing to acknowledge the truth about why they were killed, and in particular the explanation given by their killers. I also wish to record, as a Christian and a pastor, my intense protest at the White House official statement of February 15 2015 concerning this event. This makes no mention of the reason the twenty one were killed: their Christian faith. This culpable denial dishonours them, as it dishonours me and Christians everywhere.
The White House statement claimed that ‘ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect or ethnicity.’ Not true. The Islamic State’s actions are constrained by its theology, and in this case its targets are also determined on religious grounds; they were Christians. It is not an endorsement of the killer’s Islamic beliefs to acknowledge that these jihadis follow a form of Islam, and that their sect and faith does constrain their behaviour accordingly. President Obama has defended his administration’s misrepresentations on the grounds that the radicals are ‘desperate for legitimacy’ so ‘They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam.’ But these are not desperate people. They are shockingly confident in their beliefs. They do not ‘try to portray themselves’ as Islamic: they sincerely believe they are. Christopher Hitchens got it right over a decade ago when he suggested of Al Qa’ida recruits that ‘they believe their own propaganda,’ and ‘absolutely subscribe to the tenets of their version … of their religion, Islam.’ Obama also stated that ‘we must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.’ This too is nonsense. A lie is a deliberate intention to deceive, and these self-described jihadis are – at least by their own understanding – speaking the absolute truth when they claim to speak for Islam.
Some years ago I had the privilege of reading the Gospel at a Coptic service held in St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, here in Melbourne. The service was held to commemorate the 22 martyrs of the attack on Al-Qiddisin Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve. It was led by Bishop Suriel, Melbourne’s Coptic bishop. The Al-Qiddisin martyr’s service impressed me deeply. I long pondered the fact that the Coptic church of Egypt has been grieving over the freshly dug graves of its martyred sons and daughters since the dawn of Christianity. As I sat through the service and sung the hymns about martyrdom, I thought, ‘So this is what it means to be a Copt’. The Islamic State video, a polished production, depicts 21 Christian men, hands bound behind them, being led one-by-one along a beach in Libya to a point where they are forced to bow down with their heads in the sand, and there they are beheaded, crying out Ya Rabbi Yasou ‘Lord Jesus!’, some reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Severed heads were then placed on top of each corpse, their Muslim slayer standing over them. The final film shots show the Mediterranean washing red with their blood.
The whole event was meticulously choreographed and rehearsed. The video’s obvious purpose is to humiliate and terrorise Christians, whom it derisively calls, ‘The Nation of the Cross’. I admire the courage of the martyrs, who did not disown the name of Christ and the cross to follow Islam, even as they were being mocked and killed by their tormentors. It is indisputable (see Part 2) that the whole script of this video is intensely religious. It is packed with references to the Qur’an and the Hadiths of Muhammad. As Graeme Wood comments in an important recent Atlantic Monthly article, the Islamic State adherents are constantly referencing Islam’s sacred texts. In their everyday speech, ‘Koranic quotations are ubiquitous’. This film is no exception. For anyone who knows anything about Islam it is impossible to view this film without being aware of the heavy constraining influence of the Qur’an and the Hadiths on the script. These references are essential for understanding the true context, meaning and intent of the film…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
[To Read Part Two of the Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
'A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross': Mark Durie, Lapidomedia, Feb. 20, 2014—What follows is an explanation of the film of the martyrdoms produced by Al-Hayat Media of the Islamic State. Words in blue are from the film, either in the form of titles or sub-titles, or as narration. Text in grey is used for the words of Muhammad or the Qur’an.
What ISIS Really Wants: Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, March, 2015 —What is the Islamic State? Where did it come from, and what are its intentions?
Betting National Security on a Theory: IPT News, Feb. 24, 2015—The debate over whether it's a good idea to use phrases like "Islamic extremism" in fighting global terrorism took center stage last week as the White House hosted a summit to discuss what it generically calls "violent extremism."
How to Empower Violent Extremism: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Feb. 24, 2015—Not too long ago, most Russians were reportedly unhappy with Vladimir Putin.
Obama: Christianity No Different From the Islamic State: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Feb. 6, 2015 —As the world reacts with shock and horror at the increasingly savage deeds of the Islamic State (IS)—in this case, the recent immolation of a captive—U.S. President Obama’s response has been one of nonjudgmental relativism.
Say It Like It Is: Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, Jan. 20, 2015 —I’ve never been a fan of global conferences to solve problems, but when I read that the Obama administration is organizing a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism for Feb. 18, in response to the Paris killings, I had a visceral reaction: Is there a box on my tax returns that I can check so my tax dollars won’t go to pay for this?
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