Friday, March 18th 2016
“One wouldn’t call them bedfellows, strange or otherwise, but President Obama and Donald Trump are both inadvertently helping the Islamic State through rhetoric that is either too cautious or too rash,” said Washington Postopinion writer Kathleen Parker. She wrote her March 17, 2016, column, “Understanding the Islamic State,” after attending the Faith Angle Forum organized by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The Forum’s speakers included Boston University professor Jessica Stern, author of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” and Abdullah Antepli, an imam and senior fellow at Duke University. Here are some of Parker’s quotes from the two:
- Obama, through his studious avoidance of explicitly calling terrorists or the Islamic State either Islamic or Muslim, is “silly,” perhaps “cowardly” and likely unproductive.
- And Trump, with his other-izing approach to problem solving — targeting adherents of Islam for special scrutiny — contributes to recruitment and radicalization by marginalizing Muslims.
- Antepli was also critical of moderate Muslims who feel the need to defend Islam even in the wake of terrorist attacks.
- No religion, said Antepli, is one thing. Every religion, especially those that are centuries old, is many things. Understanding requires familiarity with what Antepli identified as the three main categories of all religions: history, people and, last, theology.
- In other words, religion is only part of the terrorist equation, but denying it altogether is a mistake, both agreed. On this score, Obama’s critics may be correct, though others would argue that naming Islam risks alienating moderate Muslims.
- Antepli also said that moderate Muslims are just as repelled by the Islamic State — and are just as often its victims — as the rest of the world.
- We know that the Islamic State has a sophisticated propaganda machine and a viral social media presence. But most won’t know how poorly we perform comparatively. Every day, the Islamic State tweets tens of thousands of times, compared with the State Department, which sends about a dozen tweets.
- Stern emphasized that the radical jihadist ideology is undergirded with a narrative of humiliation, reinforced with branding and perverse promises — sex slaves, drugs, power — all of which can be justified with Koranic text. The promises would be especially irresistible to a certain kind of person: The typical jihadist is a male between ages 14 and 35 who has a mental-health history and feels alienated.
- Yes, some percentage of recruits are surely psychopaths attracted to the brutality the Islamic State justifies with text. And some are true believers. But many of the remainder are simply ripe for the picking. We do ourselves no favors when we play into the Islamic State’s hands by reinforcing their propaganda that America hates Muslims.
- Nor is it useful to fight ideology with violence, which only nurtures brutality in the jihadi mind. And certainly not by creating divisions between them and us, a propagandist tool for recruitment and radicalization.