Trump and Islam: A New Hope or More of the Same?

Since the global jihad thrust itself into our national consciousness on September 11, 2001, America's arbiters of political correctness have over and again rejected every honest inquiry into Islam.  This willful refusal to explore the ideological roots of those who routinely claim allegiance to Muhammad's religion while engaging in terrorism has led our nation to choose costly and inconclusive responses to such violence.  With the "lone wolf" phenomenon, having sprung up on our shores over the past decade, one wonders whether our nation is any safer today from Islamic terrorism than during our pre-9/11 salad days.

The 2,977 murders committed by 19 Muslim hijackers on 9/11 and a litany of other atrocities perpetrated by Muhammad's acolytes since then should have prompted our nation to investigate and address what ideas lie at the heart of such murderous behavior.  Curiosity alone regarding why Muslims continue to shout "Allahu akbar" at each suicide bombing, knife attack, gun crime, and the like should have prompted a nationwide reading of the Koran and the Hadith.   Even a cursory review of the scriptural teachings these chaps have claimed as their inspiration for terror could prove helpful in defending against future attacks.  But the sad reality is that in the wake of 9/11, our nation was numbed into ignorance about Islam and diverted from examining its doctrine for a painfully long stretch across two presidencies.  

President Bush stood before a grieving nation on September 20, 2001 and told us:

The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics, a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam[.] ...

I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world.  We respect your faith.  It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends.  Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.

The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.

Following the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, President Obama took to the lectern at the White House on September 10, 2014 and stated:

We continue to face a terrorist threat.  We can't erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.  That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today.  And that's why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.  At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain.  And one of those groups is ISIL -- which calls itself the "Islamic State."

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not "Islamic."  No religion condones the killing of innocents.  And the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim.  And ISIL is certainly not a state.  It was formerly al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border.  It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates.  ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.  And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

The statements of our 43rd and 44th presidents did nothing to assure me that either of them cared to look at the actual Islamic doctrine with a critical eye.  Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama chose politically expedient platitudes rather than doing the arduous work of researching and reporting the truth about Islam from its source material.  There is no way that their transient policies based on modern and superficial worldviews would lead to an effective response to Islamic terrorism, which has existed for 14 centuries.   

Having been one of those curious Americans moved by the 9/11 horrors to understand why the hijackers did what they did that terrible day, when President Trump used the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in his inaugural address, and then decried Islamist terror in his subsequent speech in Riyadh, I quite nearly cried tears of joy.  Could it be that we long suffering patriots – having endured the intransigence of officials ardently refusing to look at the possibility that Islam itself was and is the cause of vast amounts of terrorism worldwide – would finally have our concerns addressed?  I had thought so.

But as we reach another anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this time with President Trump at the helm, concerned Americans are again forced to ask the question "Where are we now?" as it relates to our government's dealing with Islamic terrorism.

With the departures of Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka from the Trump White House, there appears to be not a single voice remaining among the 45th president's inner circle who understands that Koranic doctrine is the engine powering such entities as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Taliban as well as individual jihadists like Nidal Hasan and Omar Mateen.  The purge of advisers who hold strong opinions about the dangers inherent in Islamic doctrine, as well as the reported interference of the bureaucracy against the wise statesman John Bolton (who is having his access to Mr. Trump blocked), leaves our nation in a position in which the sanitized view of Islam continues to pervade our top brass.  Consider national security adviser H.R. McMaster, a decorated military man, who has publicly stated that he rejects the usefulness of the term "radical Islamic terrorism" because he candidly believes that terrorism is un-Islamic.  Additionally, current chief of staff General John Kelly, when testifying before Congress in the confirmation process for his previous position of secretary of homeland security, told Democrat senator Gary Peters that in considering the potential threat posed by Muslims to our nation's security, "I don't think it's ever appropriate to focus on religious factors[.] ... I don't agree with registering people based on ethnic or religion or anything like that." 

Mr. Trump's two most trusted employees serving in perhaps the most critical positions in the Executive Branch intentionally reject any connection between Islamic doctrine and the conduct of Muslim terrorists.  It is no wonder, then, that Mr. Trump's lengthy speech outlining his current Afghanistan war policy contained the word "terrorism" but no mention of Islam.

The great philosopher George Santayana, in his famous assessment on the importance of learning from history, correctly noted that progress can only be made if people retain knowledge.  In the case of Islamic doctrine, America's grandees have made little effort to acquire knowledge (and in some cases appear to avoid coming into contact with it), therefore they have nothing to retain and nothing upon which to progress toward solutions.  So another year rolls by, and the obligatory 9/11 memorials will be held, documentaries on the attack will be broadcast on cable TV, and the conspiracy theorists will demand some sort of "truth" regarding the event in order to convict the Bush administration in the court of public opinion of complicity in the massacre.  And once again, despite the profound historical impact of the attack, another opportunity to learn about Islam will be lost. 

John Steinreich has an M.A. in church history from Colorado Theological Seminary.  He has authored two Christian-themed books available on Kindle: The Words of God? – the Bible, the Qur'an and How They Are Lived in the Post-9/11 World and A Great Cloud of Witnesses – Lessons for Modern Day Christians from Church History.  His works are also on Lulu Press.