Sigh. While speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama warned against insulting religions, just because one has the right to do so. In the process, he engaged in some intellectually lazy moral equivalence:
“Humanity’s been grappling with these questions throughout human history, and unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place — remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” Obama said.
“…So it is not unique to one group or one religion; there is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. And God compels us to try.”
Obama advocated starting with “some basic humility.”
First, let’s all take a moment to clean up after the spit-take we all experienced when Barack “I’m the 4th greatest president, ever” Obama advocated some basic humility. Better, now?
The President was speaking in the context of the horrific murder of Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu’adh Yusuf al Kasasibah by burning him alive. And Obama, always supposing himself to be the only reasonable man in the room wanted to warn others, “Hey, Christians have done some nasty things, too, so let’s not go overboard in reaction.”
This is called a tu quoque error, Latin for “you, too,” or arguing the accuser is a hypocrite for being just as guilty as the accused. Not only is this an error of relevancy –what happened centuries ago has no bearing on the atrocities committed by ISIS nor our condemnation of them– in this case Obama is showing an all too common ignorance of both history and the religions he presumes to lecture about.
Put bluntly, when a Christian commits “terrible deeds” while invoking the name of Christ, he is acting against Christ’s teachings. On the other hand, when a Muslim does something similar, he is often acting in accord with the teachings of the Qur’an, the hadiths, and the recorded deeds of the life of Muhammad. Writing at Victor Davis Hanson’s site, Bruce Thornton puts it so when criticizing another example of historical and theological ignorance:
This point makes [Harvard Professor Kevin Madigan’s] argument a false analogy, for there is nothing in traditional Islamic theology that provides a basis for making violence against heretics and non-believers un-Islamic. The professor wants to argue away these inconvenient truths about traditional Islam by arguing that the faith can evolve away from them, just as Christianity did. But again, whereas historical Christian violence could find no scriptural justification, and much to condemn it, Islamic violence and intolerance––and of course slavery and Jew-hatred––are not the result of fringe or extremist misinterpretations. Rather, they are validated in the Koran, the Hadith, and 14 centuries of Islamic theology and jurisprudence, all regularly and copiously cited by today’s jihadists and theologians.
Thus the doctrine of jihad against infidels––the notion that such aggression is a justified form of the defense of Islam and necessary for fulfilling Allah’s will that all people become Muslims––is the collective duty of those dwelling in the House of Islam. The Koran instructs, “Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth.” Nor can there be any “tolerance” or “mutual respect” for those who reject Islam, especially Jews and Christians: “O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.” The professor’s dream of a “broad-minded form” of Islam would require an extensive reinterpretation or rejection of some of Islam’s fundamental tenets.
That whole article is worth the time to read.
While I was raised in a Catholic household, I’m not a religious person. And while I have a great deal of respect for (most) religions, I have none for the kind of shallow, intellectually indolent and sanctimonious ignorance Obama displayed in his remarks. The fact is, while Judaism, Christianity, and Islam arose in roughly the same region and have some similarities, what is valued as right and good and a religious duty in Islam is far different than in the former two faiths, as anyone who takes more than a superficial glance at them can see.
If we’re to fight this war successfully, we have to understand accurately the beliefs of those fighting on the other side. Sadly, we’ll have to wait for the next president to have any hope of that in our leadership.
PS: Regarding the Crusades, whatever wrong happened during them, let’s not forget that they originated in a Western counterattack against the Muslim conquest of two-thirds of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, including Christendom’s holiest sites.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)