This will be interesting. The Islamic State preaches and practices the same Islam that the Saudis have been spending billions to spread throughout the world for decades. The idea that this vision of Islam is un-Islamic is an absurd politically correct fiction, unsupported by the Qur’an, Muhammad’s example, Islamic law, Islamic tradition, and Islamic history. Muslim countries that may join this effort against the Islamic State don’t have a different understanding of Islam, they just don’t fully implement Islamic law. They may join the coalition for pragmatic reasons: Egypt threw off its Islamic government last year and is still moving against the Muslim Brotherhood, and may see action against the Islamic State as a prudent move to neutralize Islamic supremacists at home, and rapidly re-Islamizing Turkey may want to take out a competitor for the caliphate — which is not to say that either is certain or even likely to join the coalition. The point is that if they do, they will not be able to offer “the real Islam” as an alternative to the Islamic State’s version, and will not do so.
Ironically, I found this in The Weekly Standard, where the article about Kerry’s remarks concludes: “Five years out from his Cairo speech and conflict bubbling up through the Middle East and the world, the reality on the ground may be far from what the president hoped or anticipated, but the rhetoric is unchanged: Islamic extremism is not real Islam. Given the rise of ISIL, the Boko Haram, and the continued tenacity of al Qaeda, President Obama may find this message to be an increasingly hard sell.” Maybe he will, although he seems good at ignoring reality. The funny is that for years, The Weekly Standard insisted that “Islamic extremism is not real Islam,” and resisted all discussion and debate about this issue. It is good to see reality breaking through even there.
Now, as I said today – you guys weren’t in there, but I said it in this meeting – the military piece is one piece. It’s one component of this. It’s a critical component, but it’s only one component. And the truth is, equally – probably far more important than the military in the end is going to be what countries are able to do to help Iraq to be able to step up and other places, by the way, to step up and start drying up this pool of jihadis who get seduced into believing there’s some virtue in crossing into Syria to fight or to join ISIL. And a young nine-year-old kid who goes with his father and his mother and holds up the severed head of someone. I mean, that’s just beyond imagination. And what this effort has to do is literally dry up the money, dry up the foreign fighters, prevent the foreign fighters from going home back to various places to do harm. It has to start major efforts to delegitimize ISIS’s claim to some religious foundation for what it’s doing and begin to put real Islam out there and draw lines throughout the region.
And I think this is a wake-up call with respect to that because every Arab leader there today was talking about this, about real Islam and how important the Friday sermons are and where they need to go. Those are critical components of this strategy. Getting logistics, airlift, putting humanitarian assistance in, flying it in, ammunition, equipment, training, advisers – all of these roles are the totality and you have to be able to describe this in a logistic way – in a holistic way.