Sunday 25 September 2016

Obama is playing into Trump's hands by refusing to criticise radical Islam

Published 17/06/2016 | 02:30

Donald Trump speaking in New Hampshire. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has hoovered up millions of votes by refusing to be cowed by the rules of political correctness. Getty Images
Donald Trump speaking in New Hampshire. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has hoovered up millions of votes by refusing to be cowed by the rules of political correctness. Getty Images

If you want to know one reason why the obnoxious and abominable Donald Trump is so popular with very large numbers of Americans, look no further than the refusal by US President Barack Obama to publicly criticise radical Islam following the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando last weekend.

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Obama would not attack it because he felt it would serve no purpose, but this kind of attitude frustrates lots of people.

It was the same when he reacted to the murder of 13 people at Fort Hood army base in 2009. Like Omar Mateen, who carried out the nightclub massacre, the Fort Hood killer - Nidal Hasan - was a Muslim.

But when Obama spoke about the Fort Hood murders, he again refused to point the finger of blame squarely at radical Islam.

Instead, he said: "It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know - no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favour."

The trouble is that there is a version of a faith, a version of Islam, that does justify these killings and this version is not followed by an infinitesimally small number of Muslims. Al Qaeda has (or had) plenty of supporters. Isil has plenty of supporters, plus sympathisers. So does Hamas. So does Hezbollah. These organisations have lots of Imams they can call on to give them theological justifications for their actions, and the two most important countries in Islam - Saudi Arabia and Iran - both support militant versions of that religion.

So to say "no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts" is just not true. In the past, the Christian religion was used to justify indefensible acts of violence. In the recent past and present, militant atheism has justified extreme acts of violence against all religious believers. Think of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, China under Mao Zedong and North Korea today.

Last year on a campus in Oregon, Chris Harper Mercer went on a killing spree, gunning down 10 people. It was reported that he tried to target Christian students in particular.

Obama would have been better advised to say that no moderate and reasonable belief system - secular or religious - justifies murderous and craven acts.

Defending his refusal to name radical Islam after the Orlando atrocity, Obama said: "That's the key they tell us. We can't get Isil unless we call them 'radical Islamists'. What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make Isil less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies?"

One wonders if Obama had been US president at the height of the Cold War, would he have been willing to blame the radical egalitarian belief system, ie communism, for the atrocities committed in its name, or would he have felt that doing so would be unnecessarily provocative and would serve no good purpose.

What is really behind the reluctance to point the finger of blame at radical Islam when so many massacres are explicitly carried out in its name?

To find the answer we have to understand the very simple but very far-reaching calculus of political correctness.

Once a group is deemed to be a minority, it is protected from criticism at virtually all costs, including at the cost of free speech. You dare not open your mouth.

Trump, in his own mad, bad way, has hoovered up millions of votes by refusing to be cowed into silence by the rules of political correctness. He has made a virtue out of giving offence, not merely accidentally, but absolutely deliberately.

Political correctness does serve a purpose when it tries to stop us giving unnecessary offence.

But it goes way too far when it decides that any criticism of a perceived minority group, such as Muslims, is out of bounds and is, ipso facto, 'Islamophobia' and an act of hate.

Much the same kind of thing goes on in debates about immigration. If you are opposed to immigration, or even if you prefer controlled immigration as distinct from open-door immigration, you must be a racist and a hate-monger.

Many Labour supporters in the UK from working-class areas look set to vote in favour of quitting the EU because they believe uncontrolled immigration is against their interests and because they believe Labour is not listening to their concerns in this regard, preferring instead to see them as 'racists'.

In frustration, these voters are turning to the extremes. We see it in America, in France, in Austria and even in countries like Denmark.

The refusal by mainstream politics to acknowledge the concerns of ordinary voters about radical Islam and about mass immigration is giving many of these voters nowhere else to go.

We see the same thing at work in concerns about globalisation. Factory workers have seen their jobs relocated to low-cost countries and believe that mainstream politicians don't care about them.

Mr Trump is taking advantage of this. So is the far left here and in countries like Greece and Spain. Mr Trump and the far left disagree bitterly about immigration, but they agree about globalisation.

If they want to counter the rise of the far left and the far right, mainstream politicians must become better at addressing concerns about globalisation and be less craven in the face of politically correct attempts to shut down debate across a whole range of issues.

Irish Independent

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