I ridiculed Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in a 2001 article, "What's True Islam? Not for U.S. [Government] to Say," for their pronouncements about what Islam is or is not. This weblog entry updates that analysis with similar statements by non-Muslim politicians and bureaucrats.
Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, in a statement about violence in Iraq:
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the cowardly attacks today in Baghdad. These attacks were aimed at families celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorists who committed these acts are enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community.
(1) After many years, the U.S. government is back at deciding who is a good and who is a bad Muslim.
(2) "Enemies of Islam"? Who is the USG to make this assessment?
(3) Why do we never hear about "enemies of Christianity" or Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism when adherents of those faiths get attacked by Islamists, as happens on a daily basis, say against the Copts of Egypt? (August 10, 2013)
David Cameron, British prime minister, writes about ISIS:
What we are witnessing is actually a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam on the other. These extremists, often funded by fanatics living far away from the battlefields, pervert the Islamic faith as a way of justifying their warped and barbaric ideology. (August 16, 2014)
Jack Straw, a former Labour home secretary and British member of parliament whose seat has a large Muslim population: "The medieval barbarity of ISIS and its ilk is completely contrary to Islam. It's crucial that members of the faith find their voice to condemn their apostasy." Comment: Straw goes further than others in calling ISIS views "apostasy" and demanding that Muslims condemn it. How very patronizing. (August 31, 2014)
Gebran Bassil, Lebanon's Foreign Minister and a Christian: "Islam is the furthest thing possible from ISIS." (August 31, 2014)
Barack Obama, U.S. president: (1) In a televised address on ISIS, using an alternate name for it, U.S. president declares "ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim." (I discuss this in more detail at "ISIS Is Not Islamic?") (September 10, 2014)
John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state: "ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing do with Islam. ISIL a manifestation of evil, a vicious terrorist organization and it is an organization that achieves its goals only through violence, repression and destruction." (September 10, 2014)
David Cameron, British prime minister: ISIS members boast of their brutality and claimed to murder a British citizen in the name of Islam. "That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims, they are monsters." (September 12, 2014)
Mike Haines, brother of British aid worker David Haines, beheaded by ISIS, which he calls ISIL:
The Muslim faith is not to blame for ISIL, nor is it the fault or people of Middle Eastern descent. ... To my limited knowledge, Islam is about peace, it's about love. ... ISIL are not about religion, they're about terror.
(September 14, 2014)
James Brokenshire, Britain's immigration minister, referring to ISIS atrocities: "We stand together in condemning terrorism and extremism but also in being clear that these have nothing to do with Islam or any other faith." (September 15, 2014)
Dalai Lama, referring to ISIS: "Killing in the name of faith is unacceptable." Jihad should be a fight "to combat our inner destructive emotions. It does not mean harming other people." (September 20, 2014)
Tony Blair, former British prime minister: The ISIS ideology is "based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam." (September 21, 2014)
John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state: ISIS is made up of "coldblooded killers masquerading as a religious movement" (September 23, 2014)
Australian Labor Party: Two leaders, Bill Shorten and Michelle Rowland (Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism, respectively), wrote an "Open Letter to the Islamic Community" of Australia to defend it from being "assaulted, vilified, and ... wrongly stigmatised for the crimes of ISIL" (aka ISIS): "the twisted ideology of ISIL bears no relation to a faith of peace, love and tolerance which is followed by millions around the world – and we will continue to make this point. ISIL has no right to use the name of Islam." (September 25, 2014)
Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister: "It is totally without basis to blame people with an Islamic background for IS. ISIS is a terrorist organisation which misuses Islam with horrific methods – cutting off heads." ("Het slaat helemaal nergens op om mensen met een islamitische achtergrond IS te verwijten. ISIS is een terroristische organisatie die de islam misbruikt en met de verschrikkelijkste middelen - hoofden afsnijden.") (October 10, 2014)
John Allen: The Obama administration's point man versus ISIS (also called Da'esh), a retired Marine Corps general, explains how to defeat the Islamist insurgency: "As we seek to expose Da'esh's true nature, we must also tell a positive story, one that highlights our respect – our profound respect for Islam's proud traditions, its rich history, and celebration of scholarship and family and community. ... We must work with clerics and scholars and teachers and parents to tell the story of how we celebrate Islam, even as we show that Da'esh perverts it." (October 29, 2014)
Jeh Johnson, U.S. secretary of Homeland Security: "ISIL is neither Islamic nor a state." (November 13, 2014)
Barack Obama, U.S. president: "ISIL's actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith." (November 16, 2014)
King Abdullah II of Jordan, a Muslim, disagrees with these worthy kafirs: "This [ISIS etc.] is a Muslim problem." Comment: Here we go again, with Muslim leaders more ready to speak the candid truth than their Western namby-pamby counterparts. (December 5, 2014) Feb. 3, 2015 update: Abdullah changed his mind in the aftermath of ISIS burning-to-death Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh, calling ISIS a "criminal, stray gang that has nothing to do with our true religion." Comment: I guess he too is confused. Mar. 1, 2015 update: A month after the burning-to-death shock, Abdullah has reverted back to his earlier formulation, calling ISIS members "outlaws, in a way, of Islam" who twist Islam by "trying to invent falsely a linkage to a caliphate, link to our history in Islam that has no truth or bearing to our history." "I'm a Muslim," the King said, and ISIS members "are on the fringe of Islam." Comment: Fringe for sure, but Muslims nonetheless.
Al-Azhar Mosque and University: In a complex series of steps, the institution condemned ISIS as taking steps against Islam but did not read it out of the religion (known as takfir). MEMRI summarizes the situation (bullets added):
Al-Azhar issued an official statement denying the accusation of heresy ... and several of its members presented various explanations for their refusal to consider ISIS heretical.
- They claimed that Islam prohibits one person from accusing another of heresy, and that the way to deal with those who engage in takfir is to direct the same accusation against them.
- Al-Azhar scholars also claimed that ISIS cannot be considered heretical as long as it adheres to the shahada the Muslim declaration that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger even if its actions contradict Islam.
- Additionally, they said that it was not Al-Azhar's place to judge whether anyone is a heretic, or to examine the tenets of their faith, since only God can know what is in someone's heart. Condemning someone as a heretic, they said, may be done only by a shari'a judge, after it is found by comprehensive and careful examination that the person deliberately chose heresy and has no intention to repent.
For this reason, Al-Azhar said, it never intended to rule on whether ISIS was heretical.
(December 12, 2014)
NATO's Afghanistan subsidiary, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF): "The barbaric actions of the Taliban [attacking a school in Peshawar] illustrate their ... lack of respect for the Islamic faith." (December 16, 2014)
Howard Dean, former Democrat governor of Vermont, responded to the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris with: "I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am." (January 7, 2015)
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, left-wing German politician: "There is an Islamofascism, it does exists. It is not Islam, these are fascists, one should not mix them up." ("Il y a un islamofascisme, ça existe. Ce n'est pas l'islam, ce sont des fascistes, il ne faut pas tourner autour du pot.") (January 7, 2015)
François Hollande, president of France, responding to the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher massacres: "Those who committed these acts, these fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim faith." (January 9, 2015)
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister: "Islam has nothing to do with ISIS." (January 16, 2015)
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, speaking about the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher assailants: They are "men without faith or law" ("des hommes sans foi ni loi"). (January 20, 2015)
Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan, responding to ISIS threats against two Japanese captives: "Extremism and Islam are completely different things." (January 20, 2015)
John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state:
Today we are witnessing more than a form of criminal anarchy. A nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation. Against this enemy we are increasingly organizing and fighting back. But in doing so, we have to also keep our heads. Obviously the biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone. Crimes that the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose. Crimes that their faith utterly rejects. And that Muslim leaders themselves have the greatest ability to address. Religions don't require adherence to raze villages and blow up people. It's individuals, with a distorted and an even ignorant interpretation of religion who do that.
(January 23, 2015)
Barack Obama: "we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam. ... the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology. They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism." (February 18, 2015)
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York: Not a prominent political figure but an illustration how the blather at the top reaches down to the working level. In an FBI press release, "Three Brooklyn Residents Charged with Attempt and Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIL," concerning the arrest of Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, Akhror Saidakhmetov, and Abror Habibov for trying to join ISIS, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego G. Rodriguez stated: "The defendants violated the true tenets of their faith in pursuit of their radical, violent agenda." (February 25, 2015)
John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency: As reported by CBS, he warned against ascribing "Islamic legitimacy" to the overseas terrorist group, saying that allowing them to identify themselves with Islam does a disservice to Muslims around the world.
They are terrorists, they're criminals. Most—many—of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct. ... Let's make it very clear that the people who carry out acts of terrorism - whether it be al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - are doing it because they believe it is consistent with what their view of Islam is. It is totally inconsistent with what the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world.
Comment: At least he notes that these Islamists "believe" they are acting in accord with Islamic tenets. One must be grateful for even the smallest bits of honesty. (March 13, 2015)
John Brennan, in an interview about ISIS:
It is a very twisted, perverted interpretation of a religion that they purport to represent, but in no way do they represent. It's an ideology of violence. That's what it is. It is not a religious ideology.
Is Islam is a part of that ideology, asked the host?
They purport to be Muslims. But as I said, the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world roundly denounce and condemn what they're doing. And that's why we should not give them any type of religious legitimacy." ISIS ideology "is a corruption of the Islamic faith. It is a distortion of it. It does not represent the Muslim community or Islam.
Is the CIA prepared to call ISIS Islamic extremist?
I'm prepared to say that they are extremists. They're violent terrorists who misrepresent what the Islamic religion is about—yes, absolutely.
(March 24, 2015)
Manuel Valls, prime minister of France, discussing what Islam is not:
Il faut le dire, tout cela n'est pas l'Islam ... les discours de haine, l'antisémitisme qui se cache derrière l'antisionisme et la haine d'Israël, les prédications funestes, les imams autoproclamés qui dans nos quartiers, nos prisons, font l'apologie de la violence, du terrorisme, qui participent de cette entreprise criminelle, qui font partir des centaines de jeunes au jihad.
It must be said, all of this is not Islam ... the hate speech, the antisemitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel, the lethal preaching, the self-proclaimed imams in our neighbourhoods and our prisons who promote violence and terrorism, participating in a criminal enterprise that has sent hundreds of youths on jihad.
(June 15, 2015)
David Cameron, UK prime minister, fumed at the BBC using the term "Islamic State":
I wish the BBC would stop calling it 'Islamic State' because it is not an Islamic state. What it is is an appalling barbarous regime that is a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words. 'So-called' or Isil is better."
(June 29, 2015)
Ze'ev Maghen, professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic History and Chairman of the Department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, senior fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies: He asks himself whether ISIS follows Islamic Law and replies:
No. Not by a long shot. ISIS flagrantly violates Islamic law every day. Its executions are murders, plain and simple, and its policies undermine everything that the Muslim religion has always stood for. ISIS spits savagely on the tradition of the jurists, the precedents of the caliphs, and the eternal example of the Prophet Muhammad himself. ISIS is the anti-Islam.
(August 25, 2015)
Theresa May, UK home secretary: "The attacks [in Paris three days earlier that killed 130] have nothing to do with Islam." (November 16, 2015)
John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, goes so far as to declare ISIS apostates from Islam. His exact words: ISIS is "a mixture of killers and kidnappers, smugglers, thieves, and apostates who have hijacked a religion and combined a medieval thinking with modern weapons to wage an especially savage brand of war." Comment: This takes impudence to new levels: Kerry not only arrogates the right to define who is a Muslim but even to declare some self-professed Muslims to be apostates. What a dunce. (December 7, 2015)
Jim Kenney, mayor of Philadelphia, responding to the ambush of a police officer by an assailant, Edward Archer, 30, who said he was doing so "in the name of Islam," who "follows Allah," who pledged allegiance to ISIS, wore "Muslim garb," and, according to Police Commissioner Richard Ross, complained that the "police defend laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran": The incident, says Kenney, has "nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith. ... In no way shape or form does anyone in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam has anything to do with [the attack]." Kenney added that the shooting "does not represent the religion or any of its teachings." (January 8, 2016) Jan. 9, 2016 update: In 2011, Archer went on hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca only exclusively to Muslims. Converts to Islam must show their bona fides to a Saudi consul to win permission to make the trip. Jan. 10, 2016 update: Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio called the Philadelphia shooting "an act of terrorism," noting what the chief of police had said; "And then the mayor stands up and says this has nothing to do with Islam and radical Islam. This is absurd, this is ridiculous." Kenney reiterated his earlier comments, calling the attempted murder "an individual act of criminality, it was not an act of religion. No religion promotes that. ... [it] has nothing to do with religious belief." He also said he was saddened that the attacker linked his violence to a peaceful religion.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Why shouldn't a Muslim politician also get in on the fun to decide what is and is not Islamic? The Turkish president announced that ISIS "has nothing to do with Islam." More interestingly, he also asserted that ISIS "is harming Islam with what it does," which confirms my point that the extremism of this and other groups is alienating important Muslim elements. (February 2, 2016)
John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, repeated his idiotic December statement, even strengthening it and again going further than any other non-Muslim figure by reading ISIS out of Islam:
Daesh is in fact nothing more than a mixture of killers, of kidnappers, of criminals, of thugs, of adventurers, of smugglers and thieves. And they are also above all apostates, people who have hijacked a great religion and lie about its real meaning and lie about its purpose and deceive people in order to fight for their purposes.
(February 2, 2016)
Barack Obama: Terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda or ISIS "have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam ... for basically barbarism and death. These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves. There's no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do." (September 29, 2016)