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To Say or Not to Say: ‘Radical Islam’

Posted June 14th, 2016 at 5:34 pm (UTC-4)
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What’s in a word, or two?

A mourner holds up an American flag and a candle during a vigil for a fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub, June 12, 2016, in Atlanta.

A mourner holds up an American flag and a candle during a vigil for a fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub, June 12, 2016, in Atlanta.

President Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islam” is back in the American political discussion, raised by Donald Trump in the aftermath of Saturday’s massacre in Orlando.

Trump demanded Obama’s resignation because he refuses to use the term “radical Islam” when referring to acts of terrorism.

Obama responded tersely Tuesday, saying “there’s no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy.”

It’s a debate that’s raged for years: “can you defeat an enemy if you don’t know what to call it?” versus “can we expect help from Muslims if we paint the entire religion with the same brush?”

The Left Blames Everything but Radical Islam for Orlando

Scott Greer – The Daily Caller

The response from the Left to this tragedy is ridiculous, but should’ve been expected. Muslims have been assigned a prominent place in the liberal coalition and anything done to upset them is avoided like the plague. Democrats won’t say “radical Islam” because it might hurt the feelings of Muslims. Progressive atheists lecture us on how ISIS isn’t really Islamic in the hope the “real” Muslims share their values. Misleading stats are charted out showing how white supremacists are the bigger terror threat whenever a jihadi strikes.

And those views, distressingly, are shared by the very people who are supposed to protect the homeland from attack

A religious ideology drove Mateen to kill just like it drove militants to kill in Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels. To blame anything else — whether it is guns or religious freedom laws — is a thickheaded deflection from the problem at hand.

What Obama Actually Thinks About radical Islam

Jeffrey Goldberg – The Atlantic

Obama, in my reading, does not—contra his right-leaning critics—suffer illusions about the pathologies afflicting the broader Muslim world. If anything, his pessimism on matters related to the dysfunctions of Muslim states, and to the inability of the umma—the worldwide community of Muslims—to contain and ultimately neutralize the extremist elements in its midst, has, at times, an almost paralyzing effect on him. The president has come to the conclusion (as I outlined in my recent Atlantic cover story, “The Obama Doctrine”) that the underlying problems afflicting Islam are too deep, and too resistant to American intervention, to warrant implementation of the sort of policies that his critics, including his critics in foreign-policy think tanks, demand….

The fundamental difference between Obama and Trump on issues related to Islamist extremism (apart from the obvious, such as that, unlike Trump, Obama a) has killed Islamist terrorists; b) regularly studies the problem and allows himself to be briefed by serious people about the problem; and c) is not racist or temperamentally unsuitable for national leadership) is that Trump apparently believes that two civilizations are in conflict. Obama believes that the clash is taking place within a single civilization, and that Americans are sometimes collateral damage in this fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.


Trump’s Bluster About Radical Islam Helps Radical Islam

Eli Lake – Bloomberg View

If past is prelude, then the massacre in Orlando this weekend will benefit Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency….His tweets and interviews since the shooting are a series of told-ya-so’s. He is quite pleased with himself for observing that President Barack Obama doesn’t call these mass shootings “radical Islamic terrorism.”

For Trump’s supporters, this kind of talk makes their guy appear brave and thoughtful. If we cannot name the enemy, the reasoning goes, then how can we defeat it?…

[T]here are good reasons why Obama — and President George W. Bush before him — did not describe jihadists in explicitly Islamic terms. It was not because they are cowed by political correctness. Rather it was because the wider war on radical Islamic terrorism requires the tacit and at times active support of many radical Muslims.

ISIS and “Domestic Terrorism”

Victor Davis Hanson – National Review

There are many threads to the horror in Orlando. Most disturbing is the serial inability of the Obama administration…even to name the culprits as radical Islamists….It is hard to envision any clearer Islamist self-identification, other than name tags and uniforms. The Obama team seems to fear the unwelcome public responses to these repeated terrorist operations rather than seeing them as requisites for changing policies to prevent their recurrence.

On receiving news of the attack, Obama almost immediately called for greater tolerance for the LGBT community — as if American society, rather than jihadism and the cultural homophobia so characteristic of the Middle East, had fueled the attack; or as if Mateen had not phoned in his ISIS affiliation….Why is Obama’s first reaction always to find perceived fault within American society rather than with radical Islamism, an ideology certainly at odds with all progressive notions of gay rights, feminism, and religious tolerance?

What Is ‘Radical Islam’ Anyway?

Peter Beinart – Haaretz

Bush, Cruz and Trump love the term “radical Islam” because it supposedly provides “moral clarity” to America’s anti-terror war. But there’s a problem. A term can’t provide “moral clarity” if you don’t know what it means.

“Radical” has two meanings. The first is “fundamental.” “Radical” comes from the Latin “radix,” which means “root.” When Omar Mateen murdered 49 LGBT night clubbers, was he reflecting the fundamentals of Islam? Many Republicans think so. A December 2015 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of Republicans, compared to only 30 percent of Democrats, believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to promote violence among its adherents.

But if “radical” means “fundamental,” it has also come to mean “extreme.” I suspect that’s why Republicans find the term so useful. Because it appeals both to voters who believe that ISIS represents authentic Islam and to those who believe that ISIS represents a drastic, “extreme” form of Islam.

Does Saying ‘Radical Islam’ Fight ISIS?

Jeremy Fugleberg – Cincinnati Enquirer

Is it important for politicians to say the words “radical Islam” in speeches about home-grown terrorists? Is it an important verbal weapon in the war on ISIS?

Not really, says Dennis Ross, an ambassador and longtime Middle East negotiator…

Say it. Don’t say it. It doesn’t really make a difference, Ross told The Enquirer…”There’s been a hesitancy because they feel somehow they’re taking on the religion by saying that. I think in fact they’re not…”

People gather outside the Dr Phillips Center for Performing Art in Orlando for a vigil for the victims and the injured of Orlando nightclub shooting. (S. Dizayee/VOA)

People gather outside the Dr Phillips Center for Performing Art in Orlando for a vigil for the victims and the injured of Orlando nightclub shooting. (S. Dizayee/VOA)

Why President Obama Is so Angry About Donald Trump’s ‘Radical Islam’ Attack

Chris Cillizza – The Washington Post

Why did Trump’s attack get so under the skin of the usually calm, cool and collected president? Two reasons: 1) Obama believes Trump’s rhetoric in the wake of this weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando is not only wrong but deeply irresponsible for someone who could be president in six months and 2) Obama h-a-t-e-s the idea of doing and saying things purely for the sake of politics without any sort of deeper strategy behind them.


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