President Obama used a speech at the annual prayer breakfast Thursday to portray Americans’ routine criticism of Islam as “insults” and “attacks,” and to repeatedly suggest that Americans should curb their criticism of Islamic ideas.
“In modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment,” Obama said, one month after three Muslims shouted Islamic justifications while murdering 14 French journalists, police, shoppers and Jews in Paris.
Obama also suggested that free speech should be curbed or regulated to shield Islamic ideas and Muslims’ self-esteem from the rough-and-tumble world of modern democracies.
“And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks,” Obama told his D.C. audience.
In his speech, Obama did not even try to describe his suggested distinction between legitimate criticism and illegitimate “insults” and “attacks.”
In Islamic culture and laws, criticism of Islamic ideas is often treated as traitorous insults to Islam’s deity and its final prophet that deserve capital punishment.
In 2009 and 2012, Obama swore to uphold the constitution and laws of the United States.
Obama’s qualified endorsement of Islamic blasphemy laws echoed his 2012 statement to the United Nations General Assembly, when he said “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
The claim was made shortly after he blamed a California-based video-maker for the jihadi attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
In his prayer breakfast speech, Obama repeatedly tried to excuse Islamic ideas from criticism by saying that Islamic attacks aren’t actually Islamic, despite the repeated professions of faith by attackers who are giving their lives for their cause.
Terrorist attacks by people who describe themselves as Muslims “are betraying” Islam, insisted Obama.
ISIL, or the Islamic State, is a “brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism… [incorrectly] claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions,” Obama told an audience of Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Obama’s defense of Islam is a variant of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, said Robert Spencer, the author of several books on Islam.
The fallacy is used when a group of people simply ignore members’ bad behavior by pretending the members are not part of the group.
But Obama’s claim is undermined by the jihadis’ repeated citation of Islamic justifications for their murders, bombings and attacks. For example, jihadis in northern Syria recently burned a Jordanian pilot with fuel, and then justified the burning by citing the Islamic notion of “qisa,” which says that murderers can be killed in the same manner that they killed their victims.
Obama’s defense of Islam was combined with repeated efforts to criticize Christianity, which provided the intellectual foundation for America’s culture of self-reliance and its small-government Constitution.
“How do we, as people of faith, reconcile… the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religion for their own murderous ends?” said Obama, whose religious experience was shaped by years of worship at Rev. Jeremiah Wrights’s African-American mega church in Chicago.
“Lest we get on our high horse and think this [combination of love and violence] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” he said.
The Crusades began in 1095, roughly 906 years before the 9/11/2001 attack in New York, and roughly 450 years after Arabs occupied the Christian city of Jerusalem, which was then part of the Christian Byzantine Empire. The empire was eventually destroyed when Islamic armies used mercenary European gunners to capture and occupy Byzantium in 1453.
Obama also argued that Islam and Christianity share the same intellectual principles.
“Finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths… that one law, that Golden Rule [is] that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated,” he said.
“In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: ‘None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,'” Obama said.
“The Holy Bible tells us to ‘put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,’” Obama added, citing a letter to fellow Christians by Saint Paul, the leading Roman-era Christian missionary.
Obama did not mention that Islam only describes Muslim — not Christians or Jews — as “brothers,” while non-Muslims are described as polytheists, pagans or “kafirs.” Nor did Obama compare the Koran’s many recorded exhortations to violence to the Bible’s repeated descriptions of Jesus’s opposition to violence.
“When the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush,” says a passage in the fifth verse of Koran’s ninth book.
In contrast, the Biblical book of Matthew says that the Christian deity Jesus declared “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Obama “is once again articulating the fashionable moral equivalence claim that all religions are equally capable of inciting their adherents to violence,” responded Spencer.
“This claim is usually made to discourage examination of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism,” Spencer added.