President Obama wants a public debate on the danger of a religious war against all of  Islam because of the hideous criminal actions of some under the banner of Islam. Like anything done in the US in the name of God, it is fraught with the dangers of partisan politics. 

The behaviour of American politicians leaves no room for doubt over the necessity to talk ‘god’ in the electoral process.

Genuinely or otherwise, God must be invoked as often as possible.

‘He’, because gals that’s religious chauvinism for ya, is as important to a successful campaign as unquestioning support for guns and Israel.

Playing the God game in the USA has however, one very important rule. The ‘god’ is a Christian one. No real competition allowed.

Those who lack demonstrative zeal for this god, or, heaven forbid, admit to no god at all may as well kiss goodbye any vision of electoral triumph.

Not really a Christian ethos when you think about it, but that’s just how they like it. Don’t get all uppity and intellectual. 

Cue President Obama speaking to the nation’s National Prayer breakfast.

He audaciously talked religion at this religious gathering.

His sin - evoke the ‘crusades’ and ‘inquisition(s)’ when making the point that no religion has a mortgage on savagery.

Currently a disgusted world is grappling with the barbarity of a group of criminal thugs who claim to be using the religion of Islam to justify the slaughter of thousands in Iraq and Syria, and the execution of other nationals it captures.

More often than not these perpetrators are conveniently described as Islamic terrorists - with all the pejorative connotations of labeling any individual or group as ‘terrorist’ and slagging of an entire religion while you are at it.

Just days after a captured Jordanian pilot was burned to death by members of this group, Obama stated what was essentially the obvious - that there are dangers when any religion is co-opted by extremism.

Some moderates within the three monotheistic faiths have in the past couple of days described Obama’s message as nuanced and sophisticated, delivered to a nuanced sophisticated group of religious leaders.

The President was wading into a conversation that needs to be had. 

The essential point is that the world is not at war with Islam. The world is at war with a tiny group of individuals who are twisting into a weapon the teachings of the largest religion in the world.

Islam, just like any religion including Christianity, does not have a monopoly on being hijacked by fundamentalists.

Obama said

 “...and lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ...”

Well all hell broke loose at that....and unsurprisingly it continues, but unfortunately mainly in the negative.

Commentators, politicians and historians have piled in on the President, admonishing him for trying to compare atrocities committed by some Christians centuries ago with the atrocities committed by some Muslims today.

Apparently, according the a former governor of Virginia Obama made not only the most offensive comments this Mr Jim Gilmore had heard from a president in his entire lifetime, (surely not) but that he had offended every believing Christian in the US, and showed clearly that he does not believe in or share American values.


(Don’t forget many Republicans have rather loudly opined that Barack Hussein Obama is a secret Muslim).

Aspiring Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal blithely summarised the issue as “let’s be honest, Islam has a problem”.

What the President was pointing out during a speech in exactly the right venue, was let’s be honest, we all have a problem and can not blame all Muslims for the violence of a few.

Obama could not not have been any clearer when he said

“...from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith - their faith - professed to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it”.

Obama was accused of trying to deflect guilt from Muslim madmen.

If you really want to be frightened by this issue, take a little trawl through the comments sections of any major stories on it.

It is ugly and it is depressing.

Obama may not be a theologian or a historian but he has the guts to tell Americans that they need to face the reality that the actions of fundamentalists and literalists in any religion are harmful.

Islam, a religion of 1.6 billion people, can not be reduced to “vicious death cult” because of the actions of a tiny percentage.

Currently, according to the pollsters at Pew, more than half of Americans already believe Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions.

Obama has once before come close to the cauldron when he brushed off conservative Americans as “clinging to their bibles and their guns”. He survived the election nevertheless.

Now with so much US domestic and foreign policy being influenced by the Muslim Middle East, any legitimate American President needs to lead the debate on the place of Islam and that includes untangling its masses from the kidnaps, rapes and murders by some under its banner.

After all if Christians can unhitch their wagon from the Crusades and the Inquisitions, why can’t Islam?

Time and effort needs to go into an actual understanding of what Obama’s critics mean by their hyperbolic “terrorism of Radical Islam”, rather than bandying it about for naked political advantage.

When conservatives and neo-cons in the US and around the world play such politics, they succeed in exaggerating the power of a bunch of criminal thugs while clamping down on the rights and freedoms of the rest of us. 

Scaring people may work in election races, but it would be foolish to believe Bush’s ridiculously termed “War on Terror” has made the world a better place.

For many it was, justifiably or not, seen as nothing more than a Christian Crusade.    

Comments (5)

by Rich on February 10, 2015

during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. 

Which was one reason, along with the British state's tendency to impose various forms of mandatory adherence to their state religion, why the 1st amendment to the US Constitution contains:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

by Stewart Hawkins on February 10, 2015
Stewart Hawkins

The commentator remains in that blissful place of Western tolerance, believing that all religions are equal yet ignoring the lack of New Testament in the Koran together with the progressively violent rhetoric through the Koran, which by necessity supercedes earlier instructions of tolerance. She also ignores the demographics evolving through Europe together with recent history: in the early 70's nearly 3/4 of the Lebanese population was Christian yet they are almost all dead or gone now. Similarly, Stockholm is the gang rape capital of Europe and Muslim no-go areas are springing up all over the continent.

It is surprising to me that the vast majority of Americans and Westerners do not believe Islam is more likely to inflame violence than other religions. History shows that the Jihad was born with Islam and has not diminished for 1400 years. Islam means "Submission to the will of God". The emphasis has always been on submission. Secularism is a first defence.

by Serum on February 11, 2015

After all if Christians can unhitch their wagon from the Crusades and the Inquisitions, why can’t Islam?

Anything is possible, but currently this is most unlikely and not helped by those Western leaders ( American President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French  President Hollande and many others)  who profess to know more about Islam than the Islamic authorities such as Al Azhar University in Cairo —the Islamic world’s oldest (founded in 970) and the most prestigious university which co-hosted Obama’s 2009 “New Beginning” speech—assigns books that justify every barbarity IS commits, including burning people alive. Moreover, Al Azhar being a religious institution is concerned with what is and is not Islamic has called for the cutting off of the hands and feet of IS members, thereby legitimizing such acts according to Islamic law. Nor is the Islamic State alone in burning people.  Recently a mob accused of burning alive a Christian couple in an industrial kiln in Pakistan allegedly wrapped a pregnant mother in cotton so she would catch fire more easily.

 The Western approach to Islamic terrorism is utterly incoherent in that those leaders won’t even call it Islamic terror. Hollande said the attacks had nothing to do with Islam while David Cameron said of Islamic State that no religion ever lent itself to such barbarities. President Obama said that Islam couldn’t be the cause of terror since its victims include Muslims while ignoring the age old terror committed between Sunnis and Shiite’s that is currently prevalent throughout the Middle East today. All of these erroneous claims by Western leaders undermine those Muslims who wish to enact a reformation within Islam in away that encompasses tolerance and non-violence.

by Tim Watkin on February 11, 2015
Tim Watkin

Stewart, I fear you are generalising to a dangerous and wildly inaccurate degree, but I agree with the central point that Islam currently has a violent streak to it that sets it apart. It's not unique in modern times of course, what with terrorism or similar acts by both Christians and Hindus, for example. But there is a level of violent language in Islam that is currently being exploited by some for their own political and egotistical means.

Having said that, surely you'd be delighted to see "blissful Western tolerance". It's that tolerance (and enlightment) in large part that has taken Christianity away from the Crusades and to its current day (predominant) focus on love and peace.

And Obama is right to remind Christians not to cast the first stone, given the lessons of history.

by Charlie on February 12, 2015

Poor Jane!

Her head must be spinning.

She's been banging on for years about how all the problems in the Middle East were caused by the only democracy in the region (Israel), but now the truth is out.

So she has to slide out of the corner she's painted herself into by equating Islam to other mainstream religions - citing the Crusades which happened about a thousand ago and the Inquisition which was about 500 years ago.

The essential problem with Islam is that it never progressed from the Medieval era. It rejected the printing press so the Koran was never widely and critically read even by its own followers, it rejected science and the enlightenment that came with it and in due course it rejected the ensuing liberalism that swept the West. So today Islam is frozen somewhere in the 15th century - with attitudes to match.


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