Once again, a horrific terror attack. And once again, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama refuse to acknowledge the enemy. In statements responding to the horrific terror attack on Bastille Day in Nice, France, Clinton and Obama both acknowledged terrorism — an improvement from their reactions to the Benghazi attack in 2012 — but neither mentioned Islam or even radical Islam. Clinton only went as far as “jihadist” — as if “jihad” were some kind of universal phenomenon.
In November, Clinton tweeted: “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” While many Muslims do oppose terrorism, it is impossible — and dangerous — to pretend other Muslims do not, or to ignore the fact that the plague of global terror today has specific roots in Islamic theology.
All three major monotheistic religions share a concept of martyrdom. But whereas Judaism and Christianity define martyrs as those who die merely for professing their faith, radical Islam has defined martyrs as those who die while imposing their faith on others, or who die killing in the name of Allah. That is the root of the terrorist problem, and it must be resisted vigorously in the realm of ideas, as well as on the battlefield and in the cloak-and-dagger world of intelligence.
French President François Hollande had no qualms about identifying radical Islam as the enemy,telling his grief-stricken nation Friday morning: “All of France is under threat from Islamist terrorism.” Why, then, is that so hard for Democrats and the American left to admit?
“There’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam,’” President Obama said in June. But if there is no “magic” in saying those words, why does he behave as if there is “magic” in not saying them?
Words do matter, as we know from history. The former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky often recalls how when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” western liberals scoffed but Soviet prisoners rejoined: finally someone had called communism what it is. Those words inspired dissidents throughout the Eastern bloc to continue fighting for freedom.
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks last November, Clinton argued that to say “radical Islam” would be “painting with too broad a brush.” But if we cannot distinguish between “radical Islam” and the broader Islamic faith, we are allowing the terrorists to paint with that brush — in blood.
In fact, Democrats suppress the truth about radical Islam for several specific reasons, which I discuss in my book See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle. One reason is that the Democratic Party believes it is the party of minorities, and the extremists who purport to speak for American Muslims have defined any discussion of radical Islam as “Islamophobia.” (The fact that radical Islam persecutes religious minorities, including Christians and Jews, is ignored.)
Another reason the American left refuses to acknowledge radical Islam as the problem is that doing so would mean admitting that the left’s multiculturalism is a failure, and that there are real weaknesses in liberal immigration policies. There are people we have been invited into our country who not only do not share our values, but in fact wish to destroy us because of them. That need not be true of most Muslims for it to raise questions about immigration from the Muslim world.
But the most important reason the American left suppresses the truth about radical Islam is that defending the West would require upholding our own values, such as the sanctity of individual life, which is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition from which our liberty has emerged. Those are values that the left demonizes on university campuses and in the mainstream media today.
Radical Islamic groups keep fighting because they understand that they cling to their beliefs more tightly than we cling to ours. When Donald Trump proposes excluding Muslim immigrants, or Newt Gingrich suggests deporting Muslims who subscribe to sharia law, these rather over-the-top proposals appeal to many Americans not because of prejudice, but because of frustration with our leaders’ failure to call evil by its name, and to stand up to it directly.
Admitting radical Islam is the problem means summoning the courage, and the moral strength, necessary to defeat it. It is that effort that the left fears most — but which we need now, urgently.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the author of See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, published by Regnery Publishing on July 25 and available for pre-order through Amazon.com.