Written September 11, 2014

On this 13th anniversary of 9/11, my mind is flying back to that terrible day – it is forever engraved on my thoughts. Who will ever forget those images of roiling fire and smoke rising up against that crisp blue sky?

And we must not forget.

For the same ideology and passion that spawned those terrorist attacks is still very much alive and well around the earth, and thirteen years later is largely unchecked – radical Islamic jihadism. One commentator said after 9/11, “It was theology that flew those planes into the towers.” Until we acknowledge it, name it, look it straight in the eyes – the threat of future 9/11s will not diminish.

Yet sadly, there was our president on the eve of 9/11 as he spelled out steps he would authorize to address the latest and newest threat of ISIS/ISIL saying bold-faced, “Now let’s make

[this] clear: ISIL is not ‘Islamic’. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”

Let’s assess each statement.

“ISIL… Though it may seem a small point, the President and his cohorts’ insistence on referring to this group as “ISIL” rather than “ISIS” – as the rest of world does – is itself a reflection of our President’s locked-down mindset. He has an ideological viewpoint of this crisis that he will not deviate from even an inch no matter what evidence is assembled against that viewpoint. It’s a detached arrogance that cannot or will not admit anything erroneous.

“ISIL is not ‘Islamic.” The President would have us believe that ISIL is equivalent to a fringe group like Westboro Baptist or a white supremacist group that hijacks the name “Christian” or quotes from the Bible to justify their hatred. Lunatic fundamentalists can be found in every religion (and political party for that matter.) But consider the differences:

  • In Christianity, the ‘nutjobs’ might represent 1/10th of 1% of all believers (if that.) In global Islam, experts estimate that anywhere from 15-25% of worldwide Muslims subscribe to extreme fundamentalism doctrines, a frightening pool of potential candidates for jihadists to recruit from.
  • In Christianity, true believers universally expose and condemn extremist behavior that maligns their faith. We have no problem telling the world, “This does not represent Christianity.” In Islam, few of those who are “moderate” or “mainstream” speak out against the extremists. Perhaps they are in fear, which is understandable considering how many millions are on the other side. Or perhaps they are uncertain about what Islam truly is at its core, which is understandable considering the mixed messages given by the Koran and by Mohammed himself. Which leads to our President’s second statement.

“No religion condones the killing of innocents.” This is problematic for Muslims when you examine the life of Mohammed and the spread of early Islam. Consider:

  • In Christianity, not one verse advocating violence against unbelievers can be found in the New Testament. Jesus commanded that his followers love and pray for the enemies of our faith, and refused to use force of any kind to compel belief. In this spirit, the early church grew exponentially by spreading the message of Jesus, while patiently enduring persecution and opposition. Not one sword was ever raised against unbelievers for the first three hundred years of church history. It was only a corrupted, politicized form of Christianity that later advocated violence as an acceptable form of proselytism.
  • Though early in his life, Mohammed preached peaceful interaction with unbelievers, one sees in his life and in the Koranic writing an evolution of thought and practice that progressively encouraged violence against their enemies. In his book “The Great Divide” Alvin Schmidt identifies 35 specific Koranic verses that promote “fighting”, “warring” and “jihad” against infidels. A simple reading of history reveals that in its first three centuries of existence, Islam grew militarily through the sword. It may be a recessive gene, but “Convert or die” is most assuredly in the DNA of Islamic theology. ISIS is not operating in a vacuum of their own making.

“The vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.” For now. Enough said.

On one level, I understand our President’s concern that we not unnecessarily turn this struggle against terrorism into a religious war. We’re not battling Muslims. And to win this fight we’re going to need the other 2/3s of the world’s Muslims to eventually take the lead. This struggle will ultimately be won not by our missiles and drones, but by a massive uprising of the global Islamic community who will themselves grow so disgusted by the extremists that they will lead their people to a new understanding of how a Muslim is to live in this world. Any religion or philosophy that has true worth must be able to defend itself in the public square with ideas and reasoning, not guns and suicide vests. If faith must be forced on a person (which is intrinsically impossible) how weak that faith must be.

But this shift within Islam will not occur (if indeed it can occur) while leaders of the free world refuse to call the real problem by name. Theology flew those planes into the World Trade Center towers. Theology is gobbling up large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. Theology has the United States in its crosshairs. That theology has a name. Mr. President, please say the words.



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