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Contentions

Courting the Radicals

Pondering the possible link between Guantanamo and President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Christopher Hitchens wrote that,

Any person with the smallest pretense to cultural literacy knows that there is no such place or thing as “the Muslim world,” or, rather, that it consists of many places and many things. (It is precisely the aim of the jihadists to bring it all under one rulership preparatory to making Islam the world’s only religion.) But Obama said nothing about the schism between Sunni and Shiites, or about the argument over Sufism, or about Ahmadi and Ismaili forms of worship and practice. All this was conceded to the umma: the highly ideological notion that a person is first and foremost defined by their adherence to a religion and that all concepts of citizenship and rights take second place to this theocratic diktat. Nothing could be more reactionary.

President Obama does not consider himself illiterate on Islam. To the contrary. As he said in Cairo, “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.” So why is he feigning ignorance?

The reason is simple – and Hitchens highlights it. Whether in the Cairo speech or in his public musings about the Islamic Republic of Iran, the president has decided to speak directly to radicals, bypassing both regimes and liberal dissidents – as long as they forgo violence. That is why he has not just embraced their rhetoric (the “Muslim world”) but also indulged in their grievances – Mossadegh and the rest of it.

That is the same strategy the British government adopted in the UK prior to the horrific London bombings on July 7, 2005 – and some would say afterwards as well.

It did not work very well, Mr. President. Perhaps a review course on Islam might come in handy at this point.



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