Contributor Post Created with Sketch. We Are at War with Radical Islam


DebateWhy exactly do the Democrat candidates for President choke like they have a chicken bone in their throats when asked to say those words? John Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton during Saturday night’s debate whether she agreed with various Republican politicians, and for that matter French President Hollande, that we are at war with radical Islam. Her response was to stumble about and ultimately insist that we were not at war “with all of Islam.” This was distinctly off the point of the question and illustrated yet again the fetish with words that the left has any time race, culture, or ethnicity sneak into the conversation.

This is the topic that my co-host Todd Feinburg and I delve into in this week’s edition of the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast. The podcast is a spinoff of the Harvard Conservative Lunch club which we formed a few years ago. (And please don’t ask if we had our meetings in a phone booth – you are just dating yourself). We hope you’ll check it out.

Why would the Democrat candidates not be willing to say “radical Islam” or “radical Islamic terrorist?” I think it’s safe to say that if Hillary were to utter those words, she wouldn’t run the risk of frightening Muslim voters in the middle to flee over to the Republicans. I don’t even think that Muslims in the Democrat base are going to have their enthusiasm for Hillary (or any Democrat) mitigated by the use of those terms. There seems to be no appreciable downside to just simply acknowledging the religious connection of the terror threat to our society.

But still the words do not come out. Why?

I believe that the reason that this is so perplexing is because there is, in fact, no compelling political reason at play. There is no sensitively poised grievance group that would be placed at risk by more aggressive rhetoric from the Democrat candidates. The predilection runs deeper than any immediate political motivation of the day. Rather, the hesitancy to employ any phrase that combines an ethnic or, in this case, religious term (“Islam”) with a pejorative descriptor (“radical”) or threatening behavior (“terrorist”) is in fact instinctive and pre-verbal for liberals. Multiculturalism simply demands that the judgment of cultures – at least cultures that rise to the level of “oppressed” – is taboo.

When it comes to the savage ways of the Iroquois Indians or the genocidal behavior of Hutu warriors, the multicultural anthropologist becomes unscientific … becomes embarrassed. The possession of Black African slaves by White males may be roundly condemned as a crime which stands outside of the context of any age but the Lachine massacre by the Mohawks is equivocated away by excuses of social pressure. Moral censure of savages from any epoch in history is avoided almost in proportion to how plainly barbaric the group may have been.

Liberals don’t use phrases like “radical Islam” for the same reason that they don’t venture into a discussion of the dysfunctional nature of the family (or lack thereof) in wide swaths of the impoverished Black community in America: it is anathema to in any way generalize. Muslims are more likely to be terrorists, Blacks are more likely to be born out of wedlock, gays are more likely to abuse substances and commit suicide. Merely discussing these kinds of statistics – acknowledging that such statistics exist – makes liberals acutely uncomfortable. Wherever possible it is preferable to minimize these traits or to insist that they are void of moral significance.

Thus, outrage over the attempts by commentators like Ayaan Hirsi Ali to open up a dialogue on the failings of Islam – characterizing such attempts as “hate speech” – only remain pure so long as normative thinking of culture is itself beyond the pale.

But like the story of the emperor and the clothes, the fact is not that no one notices. Everyone notices. The fact is that everyone – or at least the liberals – are just mortified to say something.

There are 9 comments.

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  1. Sandy Member

    I shocked myself by actually approving of Clinton’s answer, even though I think she should have answered more directly. What she said is that we are not at war with Islam but that we are at war with “jihadists” (I believe that was the form of the word she used). That is a fair synonym for Islamists or radical Islamists, and it has the proper connotations. She could be charged with using a euphemism, but if it is a euphemism, it isn’t much of one.

    So she avoided attacking the religion directly, and even though there may be grounds for attacking Islam itself, doing so is probably not wise in the public forum. One thing that doing so leaves one open to is arguments that try to tarnish Christians by comparing so-called “radical Christians” to “radical Islamists. Even worse, “Islamic fundamentalists” looks like a comparison with Christian fundamentalists. I’m very unhappy with the prospect of a Clinton presidency, but I’m pretty happy with “jihadists.”

    • #1
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:21 AM PST
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  2. Sandy Member

    I should add that I share your concerns about our apparent inability to discuss Islam itself.

    • #2
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:23 AM PST
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  3. Merina Smith Inactive

    The left is perfectly happy to demean Christians and call Christian believers “extreme”. Christians are the exception to their multi-culti, namby-pamby rule book, because Christianity is the main obstacle to them in their pursuit of total power.

    • #3
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:42 AM PST
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  4. Mister D Member

    We can refer to Nazi Germany without saying most Germans weren’t Nazis.

    We can refer to the Westboro Baptist Church without saying thatthey don’t represent all Baptists.

    We can refer to the actions of the Communist parties in China and North Korea without clarifying that not all communists, Chinese or Koreans agree with them.

    Obviously we can go on and on – abortion clinic bombers, overly aggressive police, steroid abusing athletes, white male spree shooters- and yet the only group that requires us to parse our language remains radical islamicist terrorists (a phrase that on its own carries 3 qualifiers already separating them from other muslims)

    • #4
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:43 AM PST
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  5. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    If Islamic implies too much acknowledgment of the religious aspect of the terrorists, why not use the ‘-ish‘ suffix to denote ‘styled after, inspired by, but not essentially of the original legitimate source?’ Why can’t we all just agree on the descriptors, “Islamish Blue Meanies?”

    • #5
    • November 19, 2015, at 11:45 AM PST
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  6. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra FractusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It’s also part of the Left’s message that the Right wants a war with Islam. So conceding that there is such a thing as “radical Islam” which is separate from Islam writ large is to allow people to consider that the Right might be telling the truth when we deny that the War on Terror is not a war on Islam, and thus undermine their characterization of the WoT as racist.

    • #6
    • November 19, 2015, at 1:02 PM PST
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  7. Scott Wilmot Member

    Michael Stopa: We Are at War with Radical Islam

    Michael, I’m getting to the point where I don’t think we need to use the word radical. There are hundreds of thousands of assimilation-resistant muslims all over Europe and more and more so the same in the USA (Dearborn, MI comes to mind). “The radical Muslims are deep inside our society. They are in plain sight, telling everyone openly what they aim to accomplish, and advancing their message through coercion. In a bizarre way we are the reason they act in daylight. There is no need for them to hide when we cover our own eyes.” In fact, organization’s like CAIR are spreading Islamic supremacism just as the jihadis are.

    Islam is the problem.

    Good post. Thank you.

    • #7
    • November 19, 2015, at 3:11 PM PST
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  8. Quake Voter Inactive

    I thought to suggest “Muslim Murderers” but stopped. Broad brush problem again. Includes throngs that gather to bury to the chin and stone homosexuals. And family gatherings where 13 year-old “adulterers” who have refused marriage to their appointed 80 year-old beaus are stoned to death. Definitional sloppiness to include those who routinely strangle nieces to death for the sin of being sexually assaulted. Might leave connotations against those who plot (and those who revel in) restaurant bombings in Jersualem, and those who plot (and those who live in hope for) a nuclear attack on Israel.

    The taxonomy of organized cultural and political killing in the Muslim world is more complex than that of sexualities on an Ivy League campus.

    • #8
    • November 19, 2015, at 4:52 PM PST
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  9. WI Con Member
    WI ConJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Does anyone know how Muslims themselves refer to the violence committed by their coreligionists? I’m open to the idea, the concept of not purposely offending these people in order to enlist their help, I just don’t see them accepting that anything is wrong in their communities. Very similar to the pathologies in the Black community, they don’t accept the problem is them. Lots of excuses and grievances but very little introspection or acceptance of responsibility.

    • #9
    • November 19, 2015, at 6:03 PM PST
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