Whether it’s mainly President Obama’s doing or that of his opponents, we have become a deeply polarized nation, a place where there is no shortage of issues that divide the political parties and the American people. The controversy separating the two sides at the moment involves refugees from Syria. For President Obama and many of his liberal followers it’s a question of morality. They want to accept 10,000 refugees into this country by the end of next year. For Republicans and their conservative followers it’s about security. They don’t want any refugees allowed in unless they can be thoroughly vetted to make sure no terrorists are sneaking in with the others.
Reasonable people, as the old saying goes, may disagree. But President Obama rarely sees those who disagree with him as reasonable. Republicans, he believes, are capitalizing on unjustified fear, playing cheap campaign politics, and adding for good measure that “Slamming the door” in the faces of those refugees “would be a betrayal of our values.”
Never mind that the concerns come in the wake of the Paris massacre that left 130 people dead – and news that at least one of the terrorists entered Europe embedded in the wave of refugees from Syria. If it can happen there, the president’s opponents are saying, it can happen here too.
Even some Democrats, who usually support the president on just about everything, have parted company with him. When the House passed a bill that would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States until national security agencies certify they don’t pose a security risk, 47 Democrats joined 242 Republicans in favor of the bill. The New York Times unsurprisingly called the vote “fearful ignorance.”
Despite the Times’ editorial, the American people are worried too. According to a poll by Bloomberg, 53 percent oppose resettlement of the refugees in the United States while only 28 percent are with the president and a majority of his party in Congress.
None of this is likely to influence the president. He is a lame duck after all. He won’t face the voters again. This is a man who even after the slaughter in Paris, and more recently the terrorist attack in Mali that left at least 21 dead, still won’t utter the words, “Muslim terrorists,” or “Islamic terrorists,” or “Radical Islamist,” or anything that comes close.
Instead, the president speaks in what he sees as less offensive, generic terms, describing Muslim terrorists as “violent extremists,” and says, “Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”
“We are not at war with Islam,” he tells us, as if anyone other than the demented terrorists and the paranoid think we are. “This great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence,” he says.
And Mr. Obama is not alone. Neither Hillary Clinton nor the other Democratic candidates for president would utter the words, “Radical Islam” when questioned at their last debate.
And while Mr. Obama may differ on many things with his Republican predecessor, President Bush said the very same things.
“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself,” according to Mr. Bush. “The Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion,” he has said.
I’m pretty sure that neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Bush is a scholar when it comes to Islam. They should not pretend to be. Nor should they run from an inconvenient truth: that Islamic terrorists don’t get their marching orders from a comic book. They don’t soak up their hatred by reading Catcher in the Rye. They learn their “values” from their holy book, the Koran
The president and the others say the terrorists have “perverted” Islam. What they won’t acknowledge is that radical Islam is more popular than they care to believe. This is how Ben Domench put it in the Daily Beast: The terrorists are “not an extremist fringe, but a real and indeed somewhat popular strain of ‘radical Islam’ … with significant mass support in places like Paris.”
So are the terrorists “perverting” their religion or simply adhering to it? What if they’re right, that they’re the real Muslims who follow the letter of Islamic law, and all the others are apostates?
This is something Mr. Obama has chosen not to consider, not publicly anyway. But he might want to think about something Timothy Egan, the reliably liberal columnist for the New York Times, wrote exactly one week after the slaughter in Paris and just hours before the massacre in Mali:
“The world’s worst terrorists are Muslim in name, and Muslim in warped practice, with Muslims as most of their victims. That truth should not be denied. They cite a holy book to do horrible things.”
In times of crisis, it’s important to state the obvious.