David Harsanyi / February 5, 2016

Obama’s Mosque Speech Was a Dangerous Fantasy

For eight years now, the president has reprimanded the American people for their attitudes about Islam. And Barack Obama’s big speech to the Islamic Society of Baltimore — granted, filled with many harmless platitudes — was no different, leaving little room for any honest dialogue about ideology or faith. Many of the president’s ideas about “tolerance,” in fact, are antithetical to the American experience, not something to celebrate.

For eight years now, the president has reprimanded the American people for their attitudes about Islam. And Barack Obama’s big speech to the Islamic Society of Baltimore — granted, filled with many harmless platitudes — was no different, leaving little room for any honest dialogue about ideology or faith. Many of the president’s ideas about “tolerance,” in fact, are antithetical to the American experience, not something to celebrate.

Acceptance of outsiders is an American virtue, yes. Do we have to embrace all ideas, as well? Obama has conflated tolerance of individuals and groups with tolerance of a select belief system — one that he demands be immune from criticism.

We certainly don’t want people attacking peaceful Muslims, but it’s irresponsible and intellectually obtuse to act as if the pervasive violence, misogyny, homophobia, child abuse, tyranny, anti-Semitism, bigotry against Christians, etc. that exists in large parts of Islamic society abroad has absolutely nothing to do with faith.

This week, Obama spoke about the evils of Islamophobia to a group that featured women covered, subordinated and segregated from men. I’m happy he’s open-minded about that sort of thing. Americans are free to practice their faith in any way they choose. But I’m not sure why all of us should feel obligated to celebrate this kind of narrow-mindedness. You will remember how offended liberals get when presidential candidates visit Bob Jones University or Mormons fund campaigns they find objectionable. Why is this different?

We don’t need the president gratuitously attacking an entire religion. But most liberals, as you know, won’t even allow that terrorism and extremism have something to do with Islam. Obama hits this note quite often. But this week, John Kerry, the Imam of Beacon Hill, said this about ISIS: “And they are also above all apostates, people who have hijacked a great religion and lie about its real meaning and lie about its purpose and deceive people in order to fight for their purposes.”

Kerry has no more theological authority to brand someone an apostate of Islam than King Salman of Saudi Arabia has to consecrate the Eucharist. Not even moderate Sunni clerics make this claim. Yet, over and over, leftists try and detach the branches of Islam they dislike from the trunk so they can call you a bigot for attacking their idealized conception of Islam.

Wednesday, the president explained that an “attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.” Christian communities, often older than Islam itself, have been decimated by Islamic groups and left unprotected by moderate Muslim governments for decades. These attacks are aimed at Christians. We have done nothing to help them. It is then completely rational for Christians to be apprehensive about Islam. We can see Europe’s assimilation problems — which the Muslim community here has largely avoided — and wonder how this theology and culture will adapt to secularism. It’s not narrow-minded to do so. It would be reckless not to.

“We have to respect the fact that we have freedom of religion,” claimed a president who believes forcing nuns (and everyone) to buy birth control comports with American values. There is no law in this country that inhibits the freedom of Muslim Americans to practice their religion freely. Not one.

I’m unsure if the president understands that hearing things you don’t like does not constitute an attack on freedom. People say ugly things all the time. No crime is acceptable, but Muslims have experienced far fewer hate crimes than blacks, Jews or gays. Any way you want to parse the numbers, there is no epidemic of Islamophobia.

But Obama likes to create the impression that some great injustice is occurring.

Take this CNN headline: “Obama rebuts anti-Muslim rhetoric in first U.S. mosque visit.” What does it mean? In the piece, we learn that the president reacted to “young Muslim parents whose children are worried about being removed from the country.” I know of no Republican candidate — or anyone of note on the right; or anywhere else for that matter — who has ever suggested any policy resembling this. Not even Donald Trump.

A president who wanted to bring people together would have dismissed this as a preposterous idea. He would have explained that no one in American politicians is plotting to kick Muslims out of the country. He could have pointed out that in the United States, these children will enjoy more religious freedom than any Islamic nation offers; free of virtually any religious or factional violence. But that in this country, people still have the freedom to be critical of each other’s beliefs and even denounce them. This freedom is a lot more useful than dangerous notions about “tolerance.”

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