Robert Spencer: Why Obama Won’t Call the Jihadis Islamic

Barack Obama aroused controversy over his affinity with Islam yet again in February 2015, when a photo surfaced from the U.S.-African Leaders’ Summit in August 2014, showing Obama passing by a group of African delegates with his right index finger raised in a gesture strongly reminiscent of the Islamic State’s now notorious one-finger salute.

For the Islamic State and other Muslims, this gesture signifies allegiance to Islam’s absolute monotheism. Whatever Obama may have meant by it, the revelation that he had made the gesture — coming so soon after his renewed refusal at his “Countering Violent Extremism” summit to identify Islamic jihadists as Islamic — raised new questions about Obama’s relationship with Islam. 

Why won’t Obama identify Islam as having anything to do with the jihadis, when they themselves consistently explain and justify their actions solely in Islamic terms? Why won’t he do anything about mosques in the U.S. with ties to jihad terror? Why does he coddle the Muslim Brotherhood? Why, in sum, does he seem to love Islam so much, even if he isn’t a practicing Muslim?

And it does seem most likely that Obama is indeed not a practicing Muslim, despite the remarkable persistence of rumors and suspicions to the contrary. It is extremely unlikely that a Muslim would publicly proclaim himself a Christian over and over, as Obama has. While it is possible that this would be justified under Islam’s doctrines of deception, there is no evidence that Muslims have ever behaved this way. Ground Zero Mosque imam Faisal Abdul Rauf did say several years ago, “I am a Jew,” but he only said it once, in the context of ecumenical generosity; he didn’t try to pass himself off as one. There is a way in which a Muslim could say he is a true Jew or true Christian because he follows the true teachings of the Torah and the Gospel, but there is no known case of a Muslim behaving this way in a sustained manner. If Obama were a secret Muslim, he would be the first Muslim to carry out such a sustained deception of claiming not to be a Muslim.

There is little doubt, however, given his consistent policies throughout his presidency, that Obama holds Islam in high regard, for whatever mix of personal affection (his father and stepfather were both Muslims) and political calculation (he may believe that calling the jihadis Islamic will alienate Muslim allies of the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan, however unreliable those alliances have been). His Administration backed the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt with such loyalty that Egyptian protesters held signs accusing Obama of supporting terrorism. He aided Islamic jihadis to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya and continues to aid those trying to overthrow Assad in Syria. (He insists that those he is backing in Syria are “vetted moderates,” but they have ransacked churches, terrorized Christians, and collaborated with the Islamic State too often for that to ring true.) He has repeatedly called for self-censorship to conform with Islamic blasphemy laws, most memorably declaring at the United Nations, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

And while his Justice Department aggressively pursues businesses and educational institutions to compel them to grant special privileges and accommodations to Muslims, it has shown no similar energy regarding terror-tied mosques in the U.S. Not only do these mosques remain open and their leaders uninvestigated and unprosecuted, but all too often the only contact law enforcement officials have with them is for “outreach.”

Only Obama knows what he may be thinking in all this, but a few conclusions seem obvious: he is afraid that speaking honestly about the jihadis’ motives and goals will alienate actual and potential Muslim allies. Since he believes Islam to be a peaceful religion, he doesn’t accept the idea that Muslims become jihadis because the Qur’an and Sunnah exhort them to do so. That leaves only the grievances that Islamic advocacy groups (and jihad groups) endlessly retail as the fundamental engine of the “radicalization” of Muslims – so Obama apparently sees redressing those grievances as the primary means of preventing Muslims from becoming terrorists.

This has led to foreign and domestic policies of accommodation and appeasement, along with an ominously cavalier stance at best toward the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech. Coupled with a dogmatic refusal to identify properly those who have vowed to destroy the United States and address their belief system and ideology, Obama’s stance toward Islam is a recipe for catastrophe. The United States is weaker and more vulnerable for it.