"Radical Islam?" Fact or Broad Brush?
Late last week the coolest of American presidents lost his cool. The Big Orange Thing finally got under President Obama’s skin.
For 40 continuous minutes Barack Obama unloaded on Donald Trump’s various proposals to ban Muslims from America and rejected any suggestion he was soft on terrorism. While the President left it to Hillary Clinton to specifically address Trump’s loathsome and McCarthy-like implication he is secretly in league with ISIS, it’s easy to understand why the president finally blew his stack.
Trump has a long history of making outrageous accusations and then denying it; “I’m not saying, other people are saying” said the guy who promised to prove Obama’s birth certificate is fake and implied Texas senator Ted Cruz’s father was Lee Harvey Oswald’s wingman in Dealey Plaza.
On the heels of the horrific slaughter of 49 innocent men and women in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, the President’s anger was not just reserved for candidate Trump; he was angry at Congress, the NRA, and millions of regular American citizens who trust their guns more than their government.
The president also spent considerable time taking Trump and others to task for demanding he use the term “radical Islam” or “radical Muslims” to describe terrorists who kill in their religion’s name. As much as it pains me to say this, on this one point, Trump happens to be right.
Language is meant to communicate. We seek clarity in speech.
The president believes by talking about “radical Islam” we paint the world’s billion-plus Muslims with a broad brush. I believe just the opposite. It’s President Obama who lumps all Muslims together by not being specific.
By divorcing “radical” from “Islam” the president removes the critical distinction between the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims and those relatively few who perpetrate indiscriminate slaughter. It’s like removing “drunk” from “drunk driver.”
A week prior to the Orlando massacre America said goodbye to the most famous Muslim in American history, Muhammad Ali. Ali was a consistent voice of condemnation when murders were committed in his religion’s name. Yet despite the condemnation of Ali and countless (literally) Muslims the world over, murderers continue to believe they are Holy Warriors following the will of the Prophet as they destroy lives with impunity.
By refusing to call radical Muslims radical or Muslim the President appears blind to what the whole world knows: within Islam there has arisen a disease that must be identified, quarantined and destroyed; radicalism. An oncologist doesn’t tell a patient they have cancer without identifying what kind of cancer.
Different cancers require different treatments. The same is true of terrorism.
Maniacal anti-government radicals like Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the 2nd worst terror attack in U.S. history, are similar to radical Muslims only in their willingness to kill. To head off the next McVeigh before he strikes we have to understand his twisted view of reality. The same goes for abortion clinic bombers or the radical leftists who bombed their way across America from the early 1900s into the early 1970s. Long before the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City the worst case of domestic terror in America happened in Los Angeles. In 1910, two leaders of the Iron Workers’ Union, the McNamara Brothers, dynamited the L.A. Times building, incinerating 21 nightshift workers. Were the murderous McNamara brothers “union members” or “radical union members?” The answer is obvious.
If the president wants to ensure the entire Islamic world is not painted with the broad brush of universal guilt it’s vital he be specific.