In a press-conference shortly after the Orlando shooting, President Obama brought up the controversy surrounding his unwillingness to use the term “Radical Islam”. He stated that he does not want to associate an extremists group of “thugs and criminals” with a major world religion that does not operate with the same tactics and beliefs of ISIS.
The President argued that the phrase “Radical Islam” is not a magical phrase that will fix things. He implied that this is what Conservatives are insinuating, and that such a thought is absolute foolishness.
He is absolutely right. *GASP ! Yes, I said it. There is nothing inherently magical about the phrase “Radical Islam”. He is also correct about the vast majority of Islam not being represented by ISIS. I have heard several leaders within Sunni Islam (probably around 80% of Muslims) speak out against ISIS in no uncertain terms (See Shabir Ali’s Youtube channel “Let the Quran Speak“).
BUT ! -the President is very wrong on what conservatives are actually accusing him of; and he is wrong to think that ISIS is merely a group of thugs.
What the President is being accused of, is that fact that he does not acknowledge he is dealing with a theologically motivated group. The importance of this cannot be understated. Thugs do not blow themselves up-on purpose anyway. Thugs do not have an ideology that leads them to do things in someone else’s name. Thugs do not fight for a cause. Only those who are motivated by strong ideologies will do the horrific things that ISIS does. Until the President understand that he is dealing with a theologically motivated enemy, he will not defeat ISIS.
As side note, this is not an indictment on religion. There are many motivated by other ideologies that have committed acts of unspeakable atrocities, namely: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, etc. These men were not simply “thugs and criminals” and had the Allies dealt with these men with that mindset, we could have very well lost the World Wars.
You must know your enemy if you are to defat them, and the President’s outright denial that he is dealing with a group motivated by religious reasons keeps him from being able to understand how to handle these fanatics. Until he understands that this is a form of “Radical Islam”, he will continue to fail at stoping them from attacking again, for he will not be able to predict their tactics.
So maybe there is a little magic in phraseology, maybe there is some magic in a name-especially if it helps one to understand what they are dealing with. If the President were to make the connection, I believe his tactics would drastically change and, as a meme of Ronald Regan I saw said, “ISIS would be WASWAS”
Words have meaning. Theology matters-unfortunately, not to some.