Islamic State has “perverted one of the world’s great religions,” president tells General Assembly
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, President Barack Obama spoke at length about the virtues of Islam and about the United States campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. He also reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
The speech was received cooly by United Nations delegates, in sharp contrast to previous speeches to the General Assembly which received rapturous applause.
After briefly touching on issues ranging from the Ebola virus to Ukraine, the president turned to the topic of Islam, remarking that Islamic State terrorists “have perverted one of the world’s great religions” by embracing “a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels — killing as many innocent civilians as possible.”
According to Professor Bernard Lewis, an expert in Islamic studies at Princeton University, Islam teaches that the world is divided into two opposed camps—dar al-Islam (the domain of Islam) and dar al-harb (the domain of war). Traditional schools of Islamic theology teach that it is the duty of the Muslim community (ummah) to convert or subjugate those who do not accept Islam through jihad, until the whole world has either converted to Islam or is under the authority of an Islamic regime.
Rejecting “any suggestion of a clash of civilization,” Obama repeated that “Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice.”
The president praised Islam for being a religion that accommodates “devout faith with a modern, multicultural world” and added apologetically that “all religions have been attacked by extremists from within at some point.”
Obama did not mention the widespread persecution of Christians by Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq. An estimated 200,000 Christians and other minority religious groups have been affected by the IS advance into Iraq, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes or been issued an ultimatum to “convert or die.”
Despite the recent bombings of IS strongholds in Syria, Obama “reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam.”
Syria is the seventh Muslim-majority country that the president has bombed since winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, following Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.
The president did, however, rule out the option of using American troops on the ground to fight the IS.
President Obama also ruled out any potential for negotiation with the group, declaring that “the only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”
Earlier this year, however, the president negotiated with the Taliban in Afghanistan to release U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an Army deserter, in exchange for five Taliban members who were held in Guantanamo Bay.
During his UN address, the president continued to refer to the terrorists in Syria and Iraq as “ISIL,” the acronym for “the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” Some commentators have speculated that use of the term “Levant” validates a view widely held in the Middle East which denies the legitimate existence of the state of Israel.
Nevertheless, Obama went on to tell the General Assembly that “the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable” and reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution in the region. He blamed “too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace” for the recent conflagration of violence in the region.
In 2012, the president also spent much of his speech lauding Islam. During that address, Obama told the General Assembly that the attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous protest responding to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. Later, it was demonstrated that the administration knew at the time of the president’s speech that the incident was a premeditated terrorist attack unrelated to the obscure video.
Josh Craddockwrites from New York.