Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ISIL's Pedigree

Yesterday I wrote that Mr. Obama's decision to avoid identifying ISIL as Islamic may be the responsible thing to do given the need to deprive those who might seek retribution against innocent Muslim Americans of a possible pretext for violence. Unfortunately, it turns out that that's not the president's motive after all. Mr. Obama revealed today that calling the terrorists Islamic is to confer upon them a legitimacy that they desire but don't have because they're actually a peversion of Islam.

This view was put starkly by the Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel on CNN's Outfront on which Stengel told the host Erin Burnett:
[T]he actions of ISIS, the actions of these people, are by definition not religious. There is no religion on face of the earth or in human history that condones the kind of reprehensible criminal actions that ISIS commits. I think that is the President's point. Do these men say they are doing it in the name of Islam? Yes. Is it a completely distorted and narrow and ancient view of Islam? Yes. But I would not say it [is] Islamic.
This is simply false. As I wrote the other day, ISIL is attempting in everything they do to emulate the example of their founder, Mohammad. To say that ISIL is not Islamic is to say that Mohammad was not Islamic.

Graeme Wood at The Atlantic has an outstanding piece on the history and nature of ISIL in which he makes this point emphatically. His essay should be required reading for everyone in the West, especially for those who share Mr. Obama's and Mr. Stengel's views. Wood's thoroughly researched piece is a little lengthy but certainly worth the time to study. Here's a relevant excerpt:
We are misled ..., by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature.... There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combated, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.
In other words, the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL are not un-Islamic at all. They are in keeping with Koranic law. The reason ISIL has no tolerance for modern Muslims is that they see them as sell-outs and heretics who have deviated from the pure law of the Prophet. To refuse to see this and acknowledge it, as so many in this administration seem determined to do, is to bury one's head in the sand.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf has been taking a lot of heat for her comments yesterday on MSNBC to the effect that the disaffected young men drawn to ISIS do so because they have no jobs. This was silly because it refuses to recognize the appeal that a pure Islam has for these young men whether they have jobs or not, but perhaps the prize for silliness goes to her assertion on the same network this morning where she went out of her way to mention, in what was actually a complete non-sequitur, that Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in Liberia is a group of Christian terrorists and nobody's talking about them.

Aside from the fact that the LRA is pretty much out of business nowadays, having been degraded to a few isolated cells in remote parts of central Africa, there are two reasons why Ms Harf's remark is stunningly ill-considered. First, compared to ISIL the LRA is a bunch of boy scouts. Second, they are not Christian. Unlike ISIL, they've nothing in common with the teaching of the founder of the religion they claim to follow.

This administration is doing itself no favors by its enthrallment to progressive political correctness. All it's accomplishing is making itself look more and more foolish to a public that's mystified by the incoherence of what it says and what it refuses to say.