Normally when I compare Bush and Obama, I’m talking about the worst in Obama. Not this time. From the moment Obama took office, he has argued consistently that Islam is a religion of peace and that our conflict is with the terrorists. Obama has pursued terrorists as President and eventually found and had Osama bin Laden put to death. I’m not singing Obama’s praise, but he does deserve some credit. Like Bush, however, he was often distracted by other conflicts in the Middle East that ultimately played into the hands of Al Qaeda (and now ISIS, or ISIL if you prefer). With that said, Obama is certainly correct in asserting that Islam, as a whole, is not the enemy.
Obama takes a lot of flack from certain elements on the right for this. They love to sardonically refer to Islam as “A religion of peace” while showing, say, a beheading by ISIS, or the Twin Towers crumbling. However, Bush made the very same such statements, as this article explains, and the right had very little to say about that. I’m sure they were gritting their teeth as Bush spoke fairly of Islam, rather than fueling their bigotry, but Bush has an “R” next to his name, so they held their tongues. Obama, however, not only has a “D” next to his name, but speaking of his name, it’s Barack Hussein Obama.
Some of the less extreme critics of Obama’s policy on Islamist terrorism will at least distinguish between “radical Islam” and “moderate Islam”, but even that is misleading. Even “radical Islam” as a whole is not the enemy. Saudi Arabia for example is a valuable ally, but their version of Islam is about as radical as they come. Saddam Hussein was far more tolerant of other religions and allowed far more rights to women than the Wahabi sect that dominates Saudi Arabia. Iran is a nation with whom we have an antagonist relationship, but we haven’t had any direct conflict (other than threats and sanctions) since the hostage crisis over 30 years ago. Iran is less radical that Saudi Arabia, as they do at least sanction some non-Islamic religions, mainly Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. They also fund a terrorist group called Hezbollah. This is a dangerous and violent group, but they don’t attack us. They mostly fight against Sunni radicals. The enemy is not Islam, and it isn’t even necessarily radical Islam, it is specifically Al Qaeda, and the more radical ISIS offshoot.
The truth is that both Christianity and Islam are meant to be peaceful religions. Both are very idealistic and seek the change the world through evangelism and charity. However, both have very dark chapters in their history, as well as their religious texts. It’s easy to cherry-pick and make one religion look very peaceful while making the other look barbaric. In the end, its people, not religions, who do good or harm. Individuals decide how they want to see their religious affiliations, and which parts they want to live by. The non-religious are just as capable.
As I have often contended, however, while religions have dark chapters, there are plenty of examples of great leaders and great nations that have been religiously motivated. FDR was an Episcopalian who felt his faith motivated him to fight for the poor and disadvantaged. MLK led us to a new era of racial integration and cooperation, largely motivated by his Christian faith. Malcolm X is a very interesting case. He was always officially a “Muslim”, but originally was part of a very hateful fringe group called “Nation of Islam”. This group was in reality an anti-White group that perverted the Islamic faith. However, Malcolm X spent some time in Africa and then made his pilgrimage to Mecca as required by the Islamic faith. As a result, he saw people of all races fighting for a common cause. He also saw Muslims in Mecca of all races coming together in peace. He then turned from the “Nation of Islam” and embraced Sunni Islam. From that time onward, Malcolm X was also an advocate of racial equality and integration. He has a reputation for violence, but he only supported violence in self-defense (while MLK was a pacifist). Obama contents that religion can actually help in our fight against ISIS, and I think he’s right. If human beings are so terrible with religion, imagine how much worse we’d be without it. Want an idea? Consider that the few examples of atheistic governments in human history have consistently resulted in massive atrocities and state-worship. I’m not saying that atheists are inevitably this way, but so far, their track record is terrible.
As Fareed Zakaria explained on his GPS on CNN, Islam has, in the past, been a religion that has promoted science and social progress, and they can be again. Both Bush and Obama realized this, and both realized that we need peaceful Muslims on our side in order to defeat the cancer that is Al Qaeda and ISIS. Islam isn’t going away, but if we make Islam as a whole our enemy, that will only serve to legitimize ISIS in the eyes of Muslims everywhere…at least Sunni Muslims. It will also further agitate Shia Muslims, such as most of Iran, with whom we’ve never had particularly good relations, but with whom relations could improve.