Kerry's Religious Nonsense

At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an audience was treated to the insights of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a very knowledgeable man. Not only is he the present arbiter of U.S. foreign policy, but Kerry also issues sweeping statements about the fundamental nature of religion:

“Religions don’t require adherents to raze villages and blow up people. It’s individuals with a distorted and an even ignorant interpretation of religion who do that.”

Kerry, then, unequivocally states that no religion, properly interpreted, demands violence from its adherents. But saying so doesn’t make it so. 

A creed, whether political, philosophical, or religious, may contain anything its originators and overseers see fit to include -- from discouraging the squashing of bugs (Hindus) to attending church on Saturdays (Seventh Day Adventists). There is nothing inherent in the nature of religion that prevents a manifestation of it from espousing anything, whether that be mercy or pacifism or any other facet of human behavior. And that includes violence, as is illustrated by just one of innumerable historical examples: the annual sacrifice of thousands of people to the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli at Templo Mayor. 

If only John Kerry had been around to inform the Aztec priesthood that they had “a distorted and even ignorant interpretation” of their own religion.  Undoubtedly the priests’ obsidian knives would have been unsheathed for this new victim -- as soon as they finished laughing at his arrogance. 

Furthermore, violence for the advancement of Islamic supremacism isn’t limited to a minor fringe cult of “individuals” subject to Kerry’s “ignorant interpretation.” It is embraced by a powerful, influential, and ever-growing segment of the Muslim world, among them the ruling mullahs of theocratic Iran, ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, etc. Collectively, they form the present-day continuation of a vast historical precedent that has spanned ages and empires. That Kerry chooses to pretend that Islamic supremacism is a peripheral sideshow is appallingly disingenuous. 

Kerry claims that “Obviously, the biggest error we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone.” Even more obvious than Kerry’s raising of a straw man argument here is the fact that such a collective indictment would be unjust. But the fact that many Muslims aren’t complicit in what Kerry calls “crimes” must not prevent us from acknowledging this truth: those who do commit barbarities in the name of Islam justify their actions on the basis of numerous Islamic text sources, fatwas, and precedents that are inherently violent.  

“Against this enemy we are increasingly organizing and fighting back,” the Secretary of State boldly announced, and then cautioned, “But in doing so we have to keep our heads.” Kerry’s metaphor is apt.  His words can’t help but remind us of the frequent examples of Islamists’ predilection -- contrary to Mr. Kerry’s claim that religion doesn’t condone violence -- for following the personal example set by Mohammed, Islam’s “perfect man,” in ordering the decapitation of hundreds of Banu Qurayza Jews in 627 A.D., and also acting on Qu’ranic verses such as 8:12 and 47:4

Kerry commits the sin of modern progressive academics and politicians: he sees the world only through a narrow multicultural lens that ignores any facts contrary to his benign preconceptions of other cultures and religions.

In this worldview, ideology trumps both history and current reality. Facts must conform to the sensibilities of a progressive 21st-century American politician or else, as Kerry makes clear, they simply cannot be acknowledged. Thus the fact that religious dogma can espouse violence must be ignored for the sake of his multicultural prejudices.

We live in an age of true absurdity. As Islamic supremacists thunder across the world like a herd of rogue elephants increasing their territorial gains, trampling and slaughtering indigenous populations, and openly threatening us with domestic attacks, leaders such as Kerry spout inanities and behave like ostriches with their heads buried in the sand.

No matter how many mosques promote jihad, or how many “Allahu Akbars” accompany the latest massacre of infidels, or how many organizations and groups openly declare their support for a worldwide caliphate, a denial of the obvious -- the intrinsically Islamic nature of what threatens us -- is embraced by the elite of our academic and political institutions.  

We are frequently told that we must cultivate moderate Muslims as allies. That’s true, especially since they are the only ones with the religious authority to theologically counter the violent doctrines contained within their own religion, which they assure us they reject. The standard boilerplate insistence that these doctrines are “not a part of Islam” is untrue, and that cliché is way past its sell-by date. 

Until those violent doctrines are acknowledged by Kerry and other leaders, how can any demand be made that moderate Muslims directly and publicly refute those specific elements of Islamic scripture, and authoritative historical interpretations of them, that provide a theological justification for violent Islamic supremacism, and that generate support for it among millions of Muslim sympathizers and enablers?  

What John Kerry ought to call for is a Davos-style World Islamic Forum Against Violent Islamic Doctrines. 

But as long as leaders like him spout patronizing religious nonsense, hide their heads in the sand, and refuse to recognize and condemn the internal, specifically religious motivations for Islamic violence, “root causes” and “Islamophobia” will remain as scapegoats for religious perfidy, and the Muslim world isn’t going to argue with that. As a result, any possibility of a great Muslim-based mobilization against Islam’s violent teachings will be consigned to the realm of lost opportunity. It will not happen.  

At Davos, our Secretary of State issued a warning: “Unless we direct our energies in the right direction, we may very well fuel the fires that we want to put out.”  

Those fires are not diminishing but increasing. How ironic it is that Kerry refuses to take his own advice and “direct our energies in the right direction” by demanding that moderate Muslims acknowledge, confront, and discredit the specific Islamic motivations of their violent co-religionists.

Robert Babcock writes from Lawrence, Kansas, where he ventures now and then to wrestle a few words into pleasant coherence. His e-mail address is