Barack Obama’s relationship with Islam is definitely strange, at least as relative to that of most Americans. The United States may not be a Christian nation, but it is has always been a nation of Christians in that the overwhelming majority of the country has always been Christian, and remains so today. Given that 0.6% of the United States’ population is Muslim, most American’s familiarity with and knowledge of Islam comes from reading and what they see on TV. Neither can give someone the same familiarity with Islam as would be felt had the grown up with the faith as part of their family and their neighborhood. As shallow as is most of America’s familiarity with Islam today, before 9-11 it was even more so.
But of course September 11 did happen. Watching the scenes of revelers in the West Bank and other places cheering the attacks and thinking back on the first WTC attacks, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi… Americans could have easily come to the conclusion that Islam was at war with the United States. But they didn’t. In fact, after September 11 President Bush was quite clear that that was not the case. And the predicted wave of attacks against Muslims across the country never materialized.
In fact, although there were some isolated attacks, just the opposite occurred. Prayer events where Imams were invited to speak took place across the country. Muslims were interviewed on TV and radio programs seeking to understand the religion and the motivations behind the attacks. In 1942 the hero of the left locked up 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps while in 2001 the bête noire of the left encouraged Americans to embrace Muslims.
Then in 2008 something remarkable happened. Americans elected to the presidency someone who, although ostensibly Christian, was the son of a Muslim, who grew up in a Muslim country, who attended a mosque (irregularly) and who was educated in a Madrasa. That, in a country where only 50 years before serious questions existed as to whether or not a Catholic could be elected.
All of this is to simply say, America knows that it’s not at war with Islam.
Islam is at war with much of the world… and in some places, with itself. Of the 31 active wars going on in the world today (those with at least 100 causalities per year) fully 20 of them involve Muslims on one side or the other… or both. That’s 65% of the conflicts while Muslims make up 20% of the world’s population. At the same time, 29 of the FBI's 30 most wanted terrorists are... Muslims.
Which brings us back to Barack Obama and his unwillingness to call the Islamist terrorists Islamist terrorists. While most Americans understand that not all Muslims are terrorists, they recognize the demonstrable fact that Islamic terror is a real thing, a real threat, and are simply puzzled by Obama's obfuscation on acknowledging the obvious. But he has given Americans much to be puzzled about when it comes to his perspective on Islam.
In 2007 candidate Obama, after reciting the Arabic call to prayer (apparently with a perfect accent) he told a reporter for the NY Times that that sound was “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”
In 2009 after Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 soldiers and injured more than 30 at Ft. Hood, Texas, while yelling Allahu Akbar – a thread that seems to run through such attacks – Barack Obama told the country this was simply “workplace violence”.
In 2010 Charles Bolden, Barack Obama’s head of NASA told Al Jazeera that one of the president’s three mandates for NASA was: “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”
In 2012, following the attack on Benghazi which killed 4 Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Barack Obama’s State Department spent $70,000 on ads in Pakistan denouncing the US made anti-Islam video the administration falsely blamed for the attacks. He further spoke at the UN, not in defense of free speech, but to suggest that “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Finally there is the President’s recent comments equating Islamist terror (although he refuses to use the term) with the Crusades, the Inquisition and slavery & Jim Crow in the US. Of the many things that Barack Obama has said that have puzzled Americans about his perspective on Islam, this might be the most egregious. It shows he has no understanding of history, either Christian or American.
The Crusades were a largely defensive effort as part of a centuries long geopolitical struggle that saw the Muslims stopped at Tours, France in 732, saw the Umayyad Caliphate control Spain from the 7th to the 11th centuries and saw the Ottomans turned back from Vienna in both 1529 and 1683.
In stark contrast to Islamic terror, the Inquisition was “not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.” This was necessary because prior to the Inquisition local nobles were responsible for passing judgment on heresy and arbitrarily convicted both the innocent and the guilty, often for reasons that had nothing to do with the church and everything to do with political expediency. The Inquisition was the Church’s attempt to eliminate such injustices.
Finally there is slavery and Jim Crow. What Barack Obama doesn’t bother to mention is that from before there was a United States Christians across the colonies fought slavery in the name of Christ. Indeed abolitionists existed throughout our history and Christianity was its driving force. That slavery became a blemish on American history is unfortunate, but it was economics that kept men in bondage, not Christianity, after all the Kansas–Nebraska Act had nothing to do with Christ. So too with Jim Crow. It was culture and economic power that separated the races in the south rather than religion. While some may have used Christianity as an excuse to support such laws, there was always a significant and vocal fight from Christians against such unequal treatment, including in the South. And it was Christianity that Martin Luther King harnessed to inspire the nation to bring the system down.
Barack Obama’s obdurate unwillingness to call Islamic terror by its name stands in stark contrast to his seeming eagerness to characterize a wide swath of activities and events in America as racist. Given that everything from 9-11 to videotaped beheadings to the burning people alive in cages has played itself out right in front of our eyes under the cry of Allahu Akbar, the former makes Americans wonder if Barack Obama is not perhaps some kind of Manchurian Candidate who seeks to soften American resistance to some future caliphate foothold. At the same time his seeming eagerness to immediately insert race into everything from votes against him to the Cambridge police dustup to the Michael Brown incident makes many Americans wonder if Barack Obama is not a modern version of Aesop’s Boy Who Cried Wolf, who sees racism around every corner, regardless of the facts.
At the end of the day a leader doesn’t necessarily have to be of the same party or color or race or religion of those he leads. But he does have to share their basic values and understanding of the world if he desires their continued attention and engagement. With the Yoga like contortions he persists in engaging in in order to avoid calling Islamist terror what it obviously is and Islamic terrorists what they are, more and more people are beginning to wonder about Obama’s view of the world and view of America. They understandably wonder how much that view - coming from a guy who didn't even know you're supposed to put your hand over your heart during the national anthem, something most 5th graders know - dovetails with theirs. It’s about time.