It is idiotic to accuse Barack Obama of being a Muslim or a secret Muslim. He is not. It is not idiotic, however, to attack the miscomprehension of Islam that surely explains such a remark, one he might wish to reconsider, that he would “meet with Muslim leaders” in order to thrash out the things that divide us. What divides America, and India, and Thailand, and the black Africans in the southern Sudan and southern Nigeria from the world of Islam is Islam itself. Islam is a real thing, not a figment of the Western imagination. If anything, the Western world has been running away from coming to grips with that real thing.
Barack Obama, as a child, attended school in Indonesia. At the time, Indonesia was still much more easygoing in its acceptance of syncretism. It had not yet been subject to the changes that came as the years passed and those who had grown up under the Dutch disappeared, and as Arab influence — with the real, full-throated Islam — was brought to bear. Now one sees not only the hatred for the Hindus on Bali (a subject about which nothing is written, but visitors to Indonesia know all about it), but for Christians, who have been subject to endless attacks, with thousands of churches destroyed, and only a handful of the physical attacks — such as the decapitation of those little Christian schoolgirls — ever making it to the Western press.
In this respect, Barack Obama may have his own childhood memory of Islam, in Indonesia, viewed through the prism of time, or through a watery medium of memory that refracts (Snell’s Law!) misleadingly. There is no substitute for study of Islam, of its texts and tenets, and then of the long history, the 1350-year history, of Islamic conquest of non-Muslim lands, and of the subsequent subjugation, or forced conversion, or murder of those hundreds of millions of non-Muslims who fell under Muslim sway.
Even to have asked Zbigniew Brzezinski, or someone such as Robert Malley, to be considered as “advisers” is a bad sign. As for others, one does not know. Samantha Power may, or may not, come to recognize that her main subject, the one that made her career, genocide, and especially genocide in the Sudan, has to be transcended, so as to recognize the ideological roots of this or that genocide. In both the southern Sudan, and in Darfur (where she is careful to tell audiences that it was “Muslim-on-Muslim” violence, as if that meant it had nothing to do with Islam, when, had she studied the matter more, she would have come to realize that Islam is, and has always been, a vehicle for Arab supremacism), she has recognized a problem, deplored it, but not related it to the meaning, and permanent menace, of Islam. Perhaps she will.
But Barack Obama himself will have to be much more specific, and has a duty to be, on the subject of Islam. He tells us he was opposed to the war in Iraq. Fine. But that is not enough. Why was he opposed to the war in Iraq? Was it because he realized that Muslims cannot have “democracy” imposed on them, and that the principles of Islam are not compatible with democracy as that term is understood in the liberal advanced West? Is it because the goals of the Bush Administration were messianic, unattainable, result in a squandering of resources, and in any case, are exactly the wrong goals if one desires to achieve, in Iraq, the only thing that makes sense: an exploitation, by leaving the place, of the fissures, ethnic and sectarian, both present in Iraq, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, and both capable of dividing and demoralizing the Camp of Islam, and thus of buying time for the Western, or larger Infidel world, to educate itself and to come to its senses about the meaning, and menace, of Islamic Jihad?
What is going on in Iraq makes no sense. Those officers and men who are involved in “doing the job” or “completing the mission” are focusing on a narrow task, without considering whether that task makes sense. They do not see beyond Iraq. They do not even see, correctly, the forces in Iraq that will cause the attainment of the American goal — a stable, unified, possibly prosperous Iraq — as forever retreating, an ignis fatuus of the desert, a will-o’-the-wisp always seemingly just around the corner, but never to be grasped, as more money, more men (and where have all the captains gone? Long time passing) and matÃ©riel are squandered, last year, this year, next year in Iraq. No one can criticize the war from the only perspective that shows an awareness of the danger of Jihad, instead of being based on such airy ideas as “sitting down with Muslim leaders” to “listen to their grievances.” This smacks of Chamberlain, or Halifax. Barack Obama is, one would have thought, smarter than that. If he grasps the nettle of the Iraq War, and what is truly wrong with it, he could win. And McCain too. And Clinton. Yes, so could he, and so could any man — or woman. If they only had the wit to think about it.