It was an extraordinary breaking of ranks. For years now, since 9/11 and before, Western leaders from all points of the political spectrum have unanimously maintained that Islam was a Religion of Peace and that Islamic jihad terrorists were a tiny minority of extremists who were twisting and hijacking the peaceful teachings of their religion.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls hasn’t exactly abandoned this roseate, inaccurate, and self-defeating view, but he has come closer than any other Western leader to telling the truth about the threat – with Eric Holder harrumphing in dissent on the sidelines.
On Saturday, Valls declared that France was waging “a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.”
It is unclear at this point whether Valls realizes the full implications of what he has said. Maybe he was simply reacting emotionally after the jihad massacres at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. For a declaration of war against “jihadism” and “radical Islam” is also a declaration of war (wittingly or unwittingly) against the prevailing refusal of Western leaders to describe the crisis they face as having anything whatsoever to do with Islam.
The immediate reaction from (all too slowly) outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder was far from positive. The Hill reported Sunday that during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Holder “declined at one point to echo France’s prime minister, who said this weekend that his country is at war with ‘radical Islam.’” Holder said: “I certainly think that we are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who would corrupt the Islamic faith in the way that they do, to try to justify their terrorist actions. So that’s who we are at war with. And we are determined to take the fight to them to prevent them from engaging in these kinds of activities.”
Holder’s insistence that Islamic jihad terrorists “corrupt the Islamic faith” unmistakably rebuked Valls’ acknowledgment that the problem lies with “jihadism” and “radical Islam.” If challenged, Valls would probably say something to the effect that “jihadism” and “radical Islam” have nothing whatsoever to do with the genuine article, which is entirely benign and to be welcomed and encouraged. Nonetheless, his forthrightness should make it easier for the French to call upon Muslims in France to renounce the aspects of Islam that conflict with Western principles of human rights.
Of course, the situation in France is already very dire, and it may be too late to turn it around. But this is a start, or the beginning of a start. And perhaps it also bodes well for the possibility that other Western leaders will sooner or later become more realistic as well. Certainly the onrushing of events, and the ever-increasing frequency of jihad attacks in Western countries, makes the Obama fantasy-based policy ever harder to sustain. The Charlie Hebdo jihadists announced that they were committing mass murder in order to avenge Muhammad; they then went to kill more people at a kosher supermarket because Jews are demonized in the Qur’an as the worst enemies of the Muslims (5:82). To continue to pretend that such attacks have nothing to do with Islam is not only absurd, but it deforms policy and hamstrings the West’s ability to respond effectively.
Nonetheless, the White House dug in its heels. On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced:
On February 18, 2015, the White House will host a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris.
How can Obama hope to counter “violent extremism” when he doesn’t even dare name what kind of extremism it is? We can only hope that some American counterparts of Manuel Valls will appear before it’s too late.