Sam Harris schools Obama on the nature of Islam

Sam Harris schools Obama on the nature of Islam September 11, 2014

Sleepwalking Towards Armageddon: In a new blog post Sam Harris rejects the claim made by President Obama and others that the Islamic State is somehow “not Islamic.”

The post, entitled Sleepwalking Towards Armageddon, argues that the failure by Obama and others to recognize the self-evident fact that Islam leads some people to do horrible things will only perpetuate the horror.

Last night President Obama delivered a prime-time address from the White House about his plan for fighting the Islamic State. In doing so he made the following misleading and problematic claim:

“ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”

It is the type of claim that is often repeated by Obama and others. For example, after news of the brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley, President Obama said:

“ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.”

Later, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf emphasized that Obama meant what he said:

“ISIL does not operate in the name of any religion. The president has been very clear about that, and the more we can underscore that, the better.”

Another example: last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff as an act of “medieval savagery” while claiming that the jihadists who killed him were not the true face of Islam:

“The face of Islam is not the butchers that killed Steven Sotloff. That’s ISIL. The face of Islam is not the nihilists who know only how to destroy not to build. It’s not masked cowards, whose actions are an ugly insult to the peaceful religion that they violate every single day with their barbarity.

The real face of Islam is a peaceful religion, based on the dignity of all human beings. It’s one where Muslim communities are leading the fight against poverty, it’s one where Muslim communities are providing basic healthcare and emergency assistance on the frontlines of some of our most devastating humanitarian crises.”

Other world leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, have made similar claims.

In his post, Harris gives good reasons to question the assertion that the Islamic State is somehow unIslamic, and not a legitimate expression of Islam. Harris writes:

“A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran. The reality of martyrdom and the sanctity of armed jihad are about as controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under Christianity.”

Harris notes:

“But a belief in martyrdom, a hatred of infidels, and a commitment to violent jihad are not fringe phenomena in the Muslim world. These preoccupations are supported by the Koran and numerous hadith. That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammad Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has).”

About the failure of many to recognize the self-evident connection between Islam and the Islamic State, Harris writes:

“… there is now a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths. Our humanities and social science departments are filled with scholars and pseudo-scholars deemed to be experts in terrorism, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, anthropology, political science, and other diverse fields, who claim that where Muslim intolerance and violence are concerned, nothing is ever what it seems. Above all, these experts claim that one can’t take Islamists and jihadists at their word: Their incessant declarations about God, paradise, martyrdom, and the evils of apostasy are nothing more than a mask concealing their real motivations.”

Do all Muslims support the Islamic State? No. Do all Muslims agree that the Islamic State is a legitimate expression of Islam? No.

However, some Muslims, a large minority of Muslims, do support the Islamic State, and do believe that the Islamic State is in fact a true and righteous expression of Islam. To deny this fact is folly.

Sam Harris is right about the Islamic State, but will anyone listen?

(Via Sam Harris)

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