Cross-posted by Gary Fouse
I'm not going to come down too hard on President Obama for his attempt to reach out to Muslims during his stop in Turkey-as some have. At a press conference, he assured his listeners that the US was not or ever had been at war with Islam.
Fair enough. Of course, what everybody knows there are a fair number of Muslims in the world who are at war against the US and the West in the name of Islam-among other issues, of course.
Choosing Turkey to make his appeal was a wise choice given the unique situation Turkey occupies. First of all, Turkey, since the rule of Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's national hero, has been secular in its approach to religion. Ataturk maintained a separation between church and state. As any visitor to Turkey will attest (I have been there twice), Turks are not only allowed to drink alcohol, but partake quite enthusiastically. Their national drink is raki, similar to the Greek uzo. In addition, they produce one of the world's best beers, Efes Pilson. The Turks are a tough but friendly people, and Turkey is a genuinely nice country.
Unfortunately, the call of Jihad and Islamic fundamentalism has infected some Turks both in Turkey and in Europe. Because of their secular background and the importance of Turkey strategically, it is fervently hoped that militant Islam can be contained in that country. Turkey has been trying for years to gain acceptance into the European Union, and this issue will be an important factor.
The below statement by Obama does give me pause, however:
"One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said, "is ... we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
Not exactly. Where does Obama think we get our ideals and values from? With all due respect to people of other religions and atheists-who can be equally good people-the history of our country and the way we developed is linked to our Judeo-Christian heritage and values (no matter how often we have strayed from those values).
He also made this curious statement:
“We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”
With all due respect, what exactly has Islam done over the centuries-or over the history of the US-to shape our country? That is a platitude that simply does not hold water.
I think Obama erred if he intends to send out a message to the Muslim world that Christianity and Judaism no longer matter to Americans. Many militant Muslims will take that as a sign of weakness-just as they see in secular Europe, where great churches and cathedrals are little more than historical monuments, generally empty save for tourists and an occasional old priest walking around and lighting candles. Many of the radical Muslims living in European cities are already envisioning the day when those buildings will be turned into great mosques-or torn down with the quiet acquiescence of remaining minority Europeans. When it comes to America, Obama should never give that signal to the Islamic world.
By all means, President Obama should reach out to the moderate and peaceful Muslim world and let them know we mean them no harm. However, he could have pointed to the fact that in recent years, we have liberated millions of Muslims from tyranny in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Is there something Obama thinks America needs to apologize for? In addition, Obama is not the first president who has extended his hand to the Muslim world. Even after 9-11, President Bush made it a point to let the Muslim world know that America had no quarrel with Islam itself. He called Islam "a religion of peace", a statement he felt he had to make given the world situation.
I hope Obama's conciliatory words will resonate throughout the Muslim world. I have no hope that they will mean anything to the Jihadis and those already engaged in terrorism. It is against that segment that the president must remain vigilant and prepared.
And he must let them know that.