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Herb London: President Obama's Ramadan Speech

On the first day of Ramadan, June 28, President Obama delivered an address for the Muslim faithful in the United States. In this address he expressed sympathy for Gazans, especially those who have had Ramadan celebrations foiled by Israeli missiles.

Most significantly, President Obama equated Islamic principles of Ramadan with American values: “I…know that Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection…reciting and listening to the entire Koran over the course of the month. These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.” But is this true or even remotely true?

Ahmed Shehad, a prominent Canadian imam said two days after the president’s speech that “The [Prophet Mohammad], peace and blessing be upon him, used to carry out jihad during the month of Ramadan and to order his companions to strengthen themselves for encountering their enemy…”

What the president has consistently asserted is a false equation of values which generally misleads a gullible public and media spokesmen inclined to reflexively adopt the president’s position. He also manages to confuse a utopian view of Islam with the actions of Hamas and other terrorist groups that claim to act in the name of religion.

While the Koran can be read and interpreted in a variety of ways and has its pacific and militant passages, there is little doubt that if you accept the principle of “abrogation” – that which came later has greater validity than what came before – “the verses of the sword” or violence to promote the spread of Islam is countenanced, alas promoted.

Comparing Mohammed with George Washington is absurd on any level. Suggesting that the Koran and the Bible are similar is an argument for the ignorant or the innocent. Suggesting that the principles of the Founders and the comments by Mohammed in the Hadith are comparable is absurd.

Peace, as a word in the West, means tranquility, a time when people and nations give voice to different viewpoints and opinions in an atmosphere of openness and mutual respect. Peace in Islam is that time after the swords have been dropped because they are unnecessary. Peace is at hand since victory has been achieved. A global caliphate has been imposed and opposition in the form of different religious beliefs doesn’t exist.

Words are the simplest expression of ideas and President Obama must know that tolerance – to cite a word he employed in his speech – means something quite different in Islam and Western Civilization. For Muslims, there cannot be tolerance for infidels; the non-believer must be forced to cast aside his convictions or face financial penalty or death. Tolerance only exists for those who share the faith. In the West, there are many paths to salvation. No one is permitted to impose his religious doctrine on others, a condition memorialized in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“Advance justice,” “dignity,” “tolerance” are words put through the cauldron of political ambiguity. They have no real relationship to Islam, at least not in any conventional sense. Does President Obama realize this? Perhaps this is his plea for world cooperation. Unfortunately it is difficult to cooperate with those who are resistant to another point of view. 

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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