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Weak Points

Reader comment on item: Assessing Obama's Mosque Speech on Islam

Submitted by Nathan Bode (Germany), Feb 10, 2016 at 09:45

Dear Mr. Pipes,

I appreciate good analysis. Unfortunately, this piece comes awfully close to deserving the label "tirade". My impression is that you went through the text of the speech following the simple rule of stopping at every point and writing a negative comment about it if at all possible, while being somewhat negligent regarding the value or substance you were delivering with your critique.

For instance, the definition of Islam. To say that salam and islam are entirely unrelated words in a semantic or etymological sense is to show a gravely insufficient grasp of one of the most important languages of the Middle East, which you are supposed to be an expert on. They certainly do come from the same root, which at times can convey the meaning of "submission" - yet the force of the word depends upon its morphology, its use over time, and at times also the context. If in general we are to believe what people say about more or less overarching aspects of their identity, which have a background in a language foreign to most of us, when they claim that the name of their religion means "peace" and one of the standard dictionaries (Hans Wehr) supports that claim, I think we ought to believe them.

Another point is Obama's religion. Unfortunately the enlightenment message doesn't seem to have struck in the minds of many politically-minded Americans, but true faith is a private matter. Not entirely unlike your underwear, it is not appropriate to hoist it on a flagpole and use it to rally political support. If I were inclined to pick the president's brain, I would imagine that he is to some degree guilty of this behavior as well; however to me it seems safe to assume he feels the necessity to do so because it is such a common practice, at least as much on the "right" as on the "left". So to what extent he has actually felt attracted to the Christian faith at any point in his life is squarely nobody else's concern. But if we must show interest in the matter, he nonetheless has much better knowledge on it than you or me or anybody else, and if he wants to change the point in time at which he slaps the label "Christian" on his forehead, who gives an expletive?

In order to avoid letting my own comments become a tirade, I do appreciate the agreement you expressed at a number of points. And they are also essential points, because they show a healthy view of proportion which for me is founded on personal experience with people who identify as Muslims. The vast majority of them are proper folks with normal needs and wishes that Christian Americans would be able to identify with as well. The problem is that the public discussion in America, whether by stupid accident or design, distorts that reality and prods people into the comfortable pattern of "us vs them".

Finally, I am very keen to listen to substantial criticism of our president, because I am sure that there are many points at which he deserves it. But it is very disappointing to find silly excuses for undermining what I am not yet able to deny as being honest efforts to build solidarity, under what purports to be serious assessment. I haven't written off your column, but I will look closely to see what you produce in the near future. Considering your position, and in light of this article, I would presume that you are capable of putting out more edifying work.

With kind regards,
Nathan Bode

Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

Tirade? I complimented Obama toward the end, if you read that far.

Islam = peace? Best to return to your Hans Wehr again.

Obama's religion? I don't dispute he is a Christian. I do dispute that he was always a Christian.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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