In his statement on the beheading of James Foley by devotees of the Islamic State (referred to in his statement as ISIL) yesterday, Obama spoke up on behalf of Islam:
Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims — both Sunni and Shia — by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people.
So ISIL speaks for no religion.
Obama continued in a theological vein:
Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.
ISIL is of course an acronym for the Islamic State in the Levant. It purports to have created or restored an Islamic caliphate in the territory under its control. How do you edit Islam out of the Islamic State?
Like Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and all the rest, the Islamic State promotes the imposition of Sharia law in the name of Islam. They all understand themselves to be Muslims acting on behalf of the faith. Yet Obama makes a special point of standing up for the good name of Islam, such as it is.
We can compare and contrast Obama’s words regarding “ISIL” and Islam with his recent remarks declaring that “we tortured some folks.” He asserted: “When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted.”
While he declared us guilty of “torture,” Obama instructed that the torture we committed was “contrary to our values.” So we have that going for us. Like true Islam, according to Obama, “our values” are worthy. The Bush administration officials who countenanced the “torture” and the CIA officers who undertook it on our behalf stand outside the American creed like the bloodthirsty maniacs of the Islamic State.
All is not lost. Obama has come to redeem the time. Like a merciful God who understands all, Obama allowed: “I understand why it happened. It’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were.” Obama does not purport to understand the devotees of the Islamic State, but his reticence in this case serves the reputation of Islam.