Dan Popp
Delegitimizing jihad -- Obama and Harf may be onto something
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By Dan Popp
January 25, 2015

All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith – face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It's a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It's a faith based upon love, not hate. – George W. Bush

As I listen to conservatives like Megyn Kelly and Rush Limbaugh complain that the Obama administration will not call Islamic terrorism by that name, it seems to me that they make a pretty good case for the other side. The basic question is this: Is the slaughter of non-combatants a legitimate expression of Islam, or isn't it? Before I think about how (or whether) we might answer that, I want to jump to the consequences that the different answers might bring.

If, on the one hand, beheading journalists and blowing up school children is Muslim orthopraxy, then we have a very big problem. Then the "global religious war" that Joe Lieberman once feared is upon us. The jihadis could be considered as the Muslims really living out the doctrine of Allah – in the way that some of us Christians sometimes think of missionaries as the Real Ones. Don't get sidetracked – it doesn't matter whether that perception is accurate. If terrorists are thought of as the ideal Muslims, then every Muslim is a terrorist at heart; some are just too worldly or afraid to walk in the footsteps of their more bloodthirsty brethren.

If, on the other hand, the terrorists represent a heretical cult rather than authentic Islam, then we can expect Muslims to be the first in line to eliminate them and their fatal corruption.

By saying repeatedly that terrorists act "in the name of Islam" but are "not true Muslims," the Obama administration wisely, I think, seeks to isolate and denigrate ISIS and their ilk. This thread of thought runs back to the George W. Bush administration. Bush 43, you may remember, always took care to say that the US was not at war with Islam, but with certain evildoers committing atrocities. For some of us it got a little sickening, to be honest – how he could never mention Muslim terrorists without the disclaimer that most Muslims are good, decent people. Strategery.

So I'm with Bush and Lieberman and Obama and Kerry and Harf. We very much want the terrorists to be considered a heretical stain on Islam, not as a viable expression of Muslim teaching.

This takes us back to the question of whether the terminology is true. Am I calling a spade a manual earth removal implement? I think the answer to that, my friend, is somewhat blowin' in the wind. It's up for grabs. I as a non-Muslim cannot define Muslim doctrine or practice. I always get a good laugh at the anti-Christian who imagines I must believe "X" because I am "a Bible literalist [sic]." I've been accused of "secretly" or "unknowingly" believing in child sacrifice, in universalism, and in God having carnal knowledge of Mary because the outsider thinks he knows what only insiders can know.

I'm not going to commit the same error and tell Muslims what they believe or should believe in order to be proper servants of Allah. If I could tell them anything it would be to investigate the claims of Jesus more thoroughly based on the historical evidence presented in the Gospels. But as to their Muslim faith and practice I have no opinion. If I did have one, it wouldn't matter.

But outside forces do sometimes change religions.

The Roman occupation of Judea produced the Pharisees and other Jewish sects. The timing of the Mormon reversal on polygamy has always seemed suspicious to me. Other examples could be given, from the histories of various religious groups, of requirements imposed, prohibitions eliminated, and traditions vacated due to exigent circumstances. It's possible that forces outside, as well as inside, the Islamic world can yet reform (or reclaim, if you wish) Islam as a religion that "coexists" with others. Choosing to call the terrorists "blasphemers killing innocents in the name of Islam" seems to be a small step toward that possible future.

Islamic terrorists? Let us hope and pray not. Terrorists killing everyone – including Muslims – in the name of Allah are enemies of the world, and certainly enemies of Islam most of all.

© Dan Popp

 

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