Obama, the Apostate

Has being born to a Muslim father made it more difficult for President Obama to deal with Islamic terror? The question must be asked.

Prior to Barack Obama's election, the conventional wisdom -- not just among the left but a majority of Americans -- was that America's enemies in the Islamic world were motivated, fundamentally, by a hatred of George W. Bush.  Thus, the expiration of the 43rd president's second term and the election of his successor, a young, black Democrat with an Islamic-sounding name, elicited ecstatic responses by legions of people in America and Europe who anticipated a virtual end to Western/Islamic hostilities.

Interestingly, things have not only failed to pan out as predicted, evidence suggests that Islamic aggression toward America has actually risen under Obama's watch.  For example, Time -- no conservative or right-wing publication -- has reported that over one-third of the 32 terrorist-related events that America has endured since 9/11 occurred during just the first year of Obama's presidency.  And lest we forget the true nature of the Fort Hood massacre shooting of 2009, Obama also has the distinction of having presided over the first terrorist attack on American soil since that day of infamy almost a decade ago.   

That the Islamic terrorist has become significantly more emboldened during President Obama's watch is indeed a phenomenon provoking no inconsiderable measure of curiosity.  Republicans doubtless attribute it to the president's lack of strength and seriousness with respect to "the evil of our time," as Sean Hannity refers to the Islamic threat.  Obama, they insist, is an "appeaser," and our enemies know it.

But there are problems with this assessment.  In fact, no less than the very same people who subscribe to this position inadvertently contradict it when they observe, correctly, that in spite of his campaign rhetoric and promises, Obama has prosecuted "the War on Terror" not very differently than his predecessor had.  On Monday February 14, Donald Rumsfeld, for example, articulated this position on Bill Bennett's radio show -- and the host readily agreed.  

This, of course, isn't to suggest that Obama necessarily shares Bush's moral vision; I think there is little question that our current president isn't nearly as comfortable with the hand that circumstances have dealt him as our last president was with the role that history thrust upon him.  But this doesn't change the fact that the substance of Obama's reply to the Islamic threat is largely identical to that of Bush's when it comes to boots on the ground.

So, if perceived weakness in Obama doesn't necessarily account for the rise in Islamic hostilities to the United States, what else could it be?

Perhaps we should consider a theory that no one, from what I have been able to gather, has yet advanced in quite the form in which I shall present it.  While it is admittedly speculative, it is not for that either implausible or unreasonable: it is not a position that I defend as much as a line of inquiry that there may be some profit in exploring.  The thesis is that our enemies in the Islamic world certainly hated Bush, but they hate Obama even more, for while Bush was an infidel, Obama is something worse: an apostate.

Before he was elected, a small handful of people raised this issue of apostasy vis-à-vis Obama: Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Edward N. Luttswak (who published his argument in the New York Times, of all places!).  There are two questions that they examined: (1) Under Islamic law, is Obama an apostate?  (2) If so, how will the belief in the Islamic world that he is an apostate impact his engagement with international terrorism?

A few things are clear. 

First, whether Obama ever considered himself a genuine Muslim is neither here nor there -- and he knows this: his father was a Muslim, a consideration alone that, according to the Islamic tradition, decisively establishes that he is, or was, a Muslim. Beyond this, however, while living in Indonesia, he was recognized by all who knew him as a Muslim, for not only was he registered as such at the two schools that he attended, but Obama and his family also attended Mosque services, even if not as regularly as would be expected from a reasonably  devout Muslim.

Second, Obama denies that he is a proponent of Islam.

Taken in conjunction with one another, these premises yield the conclusion that in Muslim eyes Obama is indeed a defector of Islam -- that is, an apostate.  Whether he is considered from the Islamic perspective as an adult apostate, in which case he deserves a death sentence, or a "youthful apostate," as Spencer suspected is more likely, is immaterial: an apostate he is.  

The aforementioned authors were anxious over whether the belief in Obama's apostasy would, in the event that he became president, impair his ability to garner the support of Islamic nations in the fight against terrorism.  The theory that I submit for attention is of a different focus.

We now know that Obama is the president of "the Great Satan."  As far as I am aware, he hasn't had any more difficult a time in cooperating with the governments of Islamic nations than had President Bush, so it would seem that the fears expressed above haven't come to pass.  Yet, as Time has rightly recognized, we also now know that Islamic terrorists have become more aggressive against the United States since Obama was elected.  In light of our present knowledge, is it so ridiculous to think that the belief in Obama's apostasy has fueled the jihadist's rage?

Republicans have rightly chided leftists for failing to come to terms with the nature of the evil that we face.  But at the same time, they themselves have anything but a perfect record on this score, for they continue to judge the Islamic jihadist in accordance with Western categories.  Only once we supplement our evaluative concepts with those by which Muslims perceive the world will we make some distance in reckoning with those who want to slaughter us. 

And only once we do this will we recognize the hypothesis I put forth provides some real food for thought.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D., blogs at www.jackkerwick.com.  Contact him at jackk610@verizon.net.
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