The American President presents himself as having the authority and the wisdom to declare who is Muslim, and who is not. Political and religious identiﬁcations are part of reality. Whom does President Obama think he is to deﬁne reality as he wishes? Well, it has been evident repeatedly that the President speaks as though he can redeﬁne reality. In truth, however, an apple is an apple even if the President should declare that “apples are not apples.” Then again, this is the man who grandiosely proclaimed in 2008, when ﬁrst running for President, “We will transform the world.” The world is what it is; the attempt to transform the nature of things is grounded on metastatic faith, a belief in magic; it is a form of spiritual sickness. In reality, the President’s declaration that ISIL is “not Muslim” is absurd. ISIL or ISIS is an army of self-proclaimed Muslim believers. Their public statements, available on the internet, make such a claim. President Obama’s obvious avoidance of using the term “Islamic terrorists” or an equivalent phrase points to at least three things: his own personal problem with ascribing any terrorist acts to Muslims; his belief that he can deﬁne and redeﬁne reality, as he wishes; and his neglect to abide by the principle of interpreting human beings and groups as they interpret themselves. The President has been speaking and acting out of his own fantasy and distorted conception of reality.
What is this basic principle for understanding political reality, that needs to be applied to acts of terror committed by Islamic extremists, such as ISIS? It is the principle of “self-understanding,” or “self-interpretation.” To understand human phenomena, including politics, a fundamental question to ask an individual, a group, or a society is: “Who do you say you are?” “How do you interpret yourself?” To one who calls himself a Marxist, what makes one think that he has the right or authority to say, “No, you are not a Marxist; you are what I say you are?” Self-interpretation must be respected as a beginning point for understanding political reality. One’s self-interpretation is foundational; actions and words ﬂow from it. Then, if the self-interpretation does not accord with reality beyond this person or group, then it can be judged misleading or fallacious. In the case of the terrorists who attacked Paris, or the Army Base in Texas, or most recently in San Bernardino, apparently each of these terrorists declared themselves to be Muslim. So by their own words and actions, they are Muslim or Islamic terrorists. To claim otherwise, or to avoid admitting the obvious fact, shows disturbing, perhaps pathological problems with reality.
Should the President or his administration wish to claim that ISIL / ISIS is not “really Muslim,” as Obama ﬂatly asserted before the American public, then he must give objective reasons for his opinion, but he did not. Do the members of ISIL not profess faith in Allah and his prophet? Do they not claim to accept the authority of the Qur’an? Do they at least claim to observe Muslim practices? If not, give evidence for ways that these terrorists are not “good Muslims.” In the meantime, take them at their word: these terrorists—ISIL / ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Horam, and many other groups operating in the world today—interpret themselves as Muslim. Their claim should be taken seriously. The inability to recognize reality, to admit it, and to deal with reality manifests a serious mental or spiritual illness.
Now, to claim responsibly that these terrorists are not “true Muslims” or devout Muslims would require considerable evidence, beginning with proof that these men and women do not even interpret themselves as faithful Muslims (which is contrary to evidence). In this regard, it would be worthwhile to hear what Muslim clerics and scholars have to say about these terrorists, and for these Muslim spokespersons to judge the goodness or evil of their actions. Islamic terrorism, I submit, presents an extremely important and pressing need for leading Muslim spokesmen to address, interpret, and denounce as a betrayal of Islam, if they think that it is a betrayal; otherwise, silence towards the terrorists by Muslim clerics, theologians, and scholars expresses tacit agreement with their destructive activities. Silence from Muslim leaders could be motivated by fear of reprisal if they should speak out in condemnation of Islamic terrorism; in a phrase, they do not want to have their heads cut off. In either case, I submit, our own elected and paid political leaders should be far more aggressive not only in ﬁghting Islamic terrorists, but in warning the American public of the grave dangers we are facing from radicalized Islam. Why has the President never warned us of the real dangers we are experiencing and facing from Islamic terrorists? Why the silence?
The failure of American political leaders to deal with Islamic terrorism is not one of mere “political correctness,” as is sometimes claimed, but evidence of a break from reality. This break manifests serious mental-spiritual problems, whether or not this unpleasant truth is recognized by most American citizens. In fact, the inability of the American political and educational elites to see its own intellectual blindness to reality, its own spiritual refusal to recognize and deal rationally and prudently with major political problems, shows how widespread mental-spiritual illness is among these American elites. Those with common sense, grounded on reality, must come to terms with the painful truth of how widespread such illness has become in the United States. President Obama’s break from reality, his inability to recognize and to deal with reality, is not the primary political problem facing our country. He will soon be out of ofﬁce, but the profound illness in our people will abide. The President’s failures and rational shortcomings are obvious. What they have exposed is the lack of clear and grounded response to profoundly distorted thinking, to a break from reality. In other words, the blatant failures of American political leadership disturbingly show how disconnected from reality both the elites and the general American citizenry have become.
Simply and directly stated: As a people in history, we Americans have to a troubling extent cut ourselves off from a rational, common sense grounding in reality. America is increasingly divorced from God, from reason, from truth, from our own founding as a particular people in history. The loss of contact with reality is the fundamental problem of American political, social, and personal life.
Regarding the concrete problem of recurring acts of terrorism by Muslims, we can and must ask: “What is the connection, if any, between Islam and terrorism?” Or is there no ideological or historical connection? Did Muslims just suddenly appear out of nowhere who are willing to use violence and murder to spread their religion, or to gain political territory, or to damage the “Satanic Empire,” as several leading Muslim clerics have termed the United States? Are Islamic terrorists an extremely rare phenomenon among Muslims, and opposed by the vast majority of Muslims? Or are they more numerous, and supported by millions of Muslims?
First, note well that various religious and secular groups in history have used violence to spread their “religion,” including the United States of America; in our expansion across the North American continent, we killed off thousands of Native Americans, often deemed to be “less than human.” We enslaved a black population, declared by the Supreme Court to be “property,” and not persons under the Law of the land. The same Supreme Court has decided that the unborn child in the mother’s womb is not a person but in effect her property, at least up to some point in pregnancy that the courts determine; and the moment the same being is born, the infant suddenly becomes a “person,” so deﬁned by the State. Who is playing with reality here? Our country has often used violence to spread its way of life. England, France, Germany, Russia, China and many other countries have done the same. So have various ideological and religious groups and societies in history. There were many years of murderous violence and even terror between Protestant and Catholic groups in Europe in the early modern period. Thousands of lives were destroyed in the name of God by Christians; and thousands of Christians were killed in the name of the Roman Empire and its god, Caesar. Similarly, millions of pre-born infants have been killed in the name of “a woman’s right to choose,” apparently a deity in the American pantheon, with other “rights.” So Islam is not alone in being willing to spread its way of life and political dominance by violence.
However, there is another fact which must be kept in mind in considering the relationship between Islam and violence. Whereas Jesus, from whom Christianity arose, eschewed and condemned the use of violence, the founder of the political-religion of Islam, Mohammed, who called himself, “the Prophet” (or, “the Apostle”) repeatedly justiﬁed the use of violence against “unbelievers” in his prophetic utterances, later written down as the Qur’an; and according to historians, Mohammed himself lead his army of Muslim believers into battle, slaughtering, among others, thousands of Jews in Arabia. Of course, booty was taken in battle, with a prescribed 20% given to the Prophet as Leader. President Bush’s assertion immediately after the terrorist attack on 9/11 that Islam is a “religion of peace” showed an utter lack of knowledge of the Qur’an, and of Islamic history. Much like President Obama, President Bush displayed a break from the truth of reality, or a desire to deceive citizens about Islam. What he should have claimed was, “Millions of Muslims desire peace with us; millions of Muslims want peace only within an Islamic empire. We must deal justly with both kinds of Muslims. We have no other choice if we wish to live in relative safety and to survive as a people.” Such truthful speech should not be expected from our leaders, accustomed to deceiving us, or being deceived themselves. To have made a distinction between Muslim terrorists and Muslims desiring peace with us may have been “politically incorrect,” or unpopular, or seen as “discriminatory.” But not to distinguish between good and evil, and their relative embodiments in human beings and societies, is a major symptom of spiritual sickness. Again, we are brought to the simple point: our political leaders misinterpret, ignore, distort reality. Being deceived, they deceive.
The problem of Islam is considerable, and must be faced: the Qur’an openly calls for and justiﬁes the use of violence to spread its way of life, belief in Allah as God, Mohammed as his prophet. For centuries such explicit passages may have been ignored or overlooked, but they were like craggy rocks under shallow water. In times of crises, in storms, the rocks have jutted out above the surface of the water, and ripped open many a ship passing over them. Non-violent adherents of Islam must face this question: What should we do with passages in our sacred writing which teach the use of violence and deception against “inﬁdels”? Should we seek to carry out a “holy war” to spread Islam around the world? Or should we rather expand the Qur’an’s teaching of mercy towards fellow believers to include how to treat every human being—including those whom we deem “inﬁdels”? Islam must come to terms with itself, distinguishing between good and evil in its own foundation. As it neglects to do so, Islamic fundamentalists bent on the use of violence will continue to cause terror and death throughout the world—“in the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.” Muslims must choose: the compassionate and merciful God, or hatred and cruelty towards fellow human beings. Or do they see no contradiction in praising God for being merciful, and at the same time denying mercy to God’s creatures?
A note to secularists in our society, who think that “religion” is the real problem, is in order. To claim that the problem is with “religions” and “belief in God” is foolish. The word “religion” is not the best, and is a case of superﬁcial labeling. The word “religion” is not used in the Hebrew Scriptures (the “Old Testament”) nor in the New Testament of early Christianity. Whether or not the Arabic word for “religion” was used in the Qur’an, I do not know; it appears in some English translations. “Religion” (religio in the original Latin) was coined by the Roman thinker, Cicero, to write about that to which people bound themselves, or committed themselves. Judaism, Christianity, Islam are ways of life: of faith, of worship, of virtues to be done and vices to be avoided. Similarly, Americanism, and particularly what scholars have called “the American civil religion,”is also a way of life; historically, the American civil religion derived from Judaeo-Christianity, especially from more “low church” Protestant sectarianism, with large infusions of Enlightenment ideology sewn into the fabric. America has had from our Founding a civil religion, a publicly sponsored way of life. Not all ways of life are equally good or noble, not all beliefs are equally true, not all actions are equally virtuous. We must state the obvious because ignorance of basic political truths is abroad in our land today.
Comparing the validity of different ways of life is left for another day. Sufﬁce it for the present to raise to consciousness problems and questions that must be faced, especially in the United States of America, which has prided itself on such secular “values” as tolerance, pluralism, and civility to all, and has often failed to make needed distinctions (such as between good and evil): Which Muslims desire to live in peace with us, renouncing violence; and which ones seek to destroy our way of life in order to spread Islam all over the global ecumene? How can we tell the difference? Have our political leaders and governmental agencies genuinely attempted to discern the difference in each case of a man or woman seeking to come to the United States as a guest or as a permanent resident? If not, why not? Have we blindly assumed that all or nearly all Muslims desire peace, when their own holy book proclaims war against all “unbelievers”? Are our leaders that ignorant of Islam, or is something else at work?
The question must be asked: What kind of political order would allow—or even welcome—into its midst human beings who passionately seek the destruction of that order? What community willingly embraces those who seek its death? What does it say about the United States if we are unable, or unwilling, to discriminate judiciously between Muslims who want to live in peace with us, and those who are willing to murder us if we do not embrace their “religion,” their conception of God, become part of the umma, and observe Sharia law? Has the United States as a people lost, not only common sense, but its will to live? Are we as a people in history committing suicide? If so, why? And what, if anything, can be done to wake our country up, to move us to seek good and not evil, to protect our people from murder and violence, to deal with reality as it is, and not the way we would want it to be?
We see images on television, on the internet, of barbaric Muslim warriors cutting off the heads of innocent human beings. The atrocities are extreme, utterly inhumane, with the publicity employed, clearly intended to terrorize the public. We Americans feel disgust and outrage at such atrocities, and we should—and be willing to stop them by force, not by empty rhetoric, as if we can “change reality” by magic words. For years we have stood by and watched such murderous violence, and taken few concrete actions to stop it. Why? In part because of the President’s failure to lead, unwillingness to use force to check destructive force, failure to face reality as it is, and inability or unwillingness to understand Islamic terrorism. That much should be obvious to all by now.
On the other hand, it could be useful to consider the perspective of a devout Muslim who lives in a contemporary Western society priding itself on nonviolence and humanitarian ways. Is there no similarity between sawing off a man’s head, and sucking out the brains of an unborn infant in the womb? Is there nothing in common here? Is not murderous violence employed both by ISIS and Al Qaeda on the victims of Muslim terrorists, and by medical professionals on the hidden victims of “unwanted pregnancies?” Does not the American way of life both practice and justify the grotesque killing of innocent life in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of infants in the womb, and of children born and left to die because they are deemed “defective”? The candidate for President who publicly said that deciding if fetuses in the womb of their human mothers counted as human life was “above my pay grade” is the same man, now President, who has been unable to wage effective war on Islamic terrorists. Apparently, deciding how to act effectively, and even what the evil is against which to ﬁght, is “above his pay grade.” Are we not seeing what a refusal to admit reality looks like? Are we not facing its deadly consequences?