“We have a State Department with people who think that you can show the evil of al-Baghdadi if you can show him personally executing a defenseless Yazidi. We need people who understand that if you can just get a picture of him eating a ham sandwich, that would undermine ISIS and its recruiting ability.”
As absurd as it sounds, Sherman is partially right. The State Department persists in working from the assumption that the people who are candidates to join the Islamic State will be turned off by its brutality. This is based on the further assumption that they share the values and perspectives of contemporary non-Muslim Westerners; State Department wonks can’t seem to conceive of the notion that anyone might not hold those values. They are bound as a matter of policy not to consider Islam in evaluating Islamic State recruitment, so they cannot consider the possibility that a young man who reads that his god wants him to kill or subjugate unbelievers (cf. Qur’an 2:191, 4:89, 9:5, 9:29, etc.) might be attracted, rather than repelled, by the sight of the caliph “personally executing a defenseless Yazidi.”
So Sherman is absolutely right about that part. But would a photo of al-Baghdadi eating a ham sandwich really undermine the Islamic State? Sherman’s reasoning appears to be that it would because it would demonstrate that he is a hypocrite, and not worthy to be the emir al-momineen, the leader of the believers. In that, Sherman reveals that he doesn’t know much about Islamic jurisprudence himself, although he is to be commended for recommending that policy analysts dealing with the Islamic State study it. That would be a refreshing departure from the prevailing denial and willful ignorance.
Would al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State really be discredited in the eyes of Muslims who support them if he were seen eating a ham sandwich? Probably not. A hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “You should listen to and obey your Imam (Muslim ruler) even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.” (Bukhari 9.93.7142) Muhammad is attempting to give what he thinks is an outlandish example in order to make his point that Muslims should obey the ruler even in extreme circumstances. Those circumstances include even if the ruler is sinful. Another hadith has him saying: “There will be leaders who will not be led by my guidance and who will not adopt my ways. There will be among them men who will have the hearts of devils in the bodies of human beings….You will listen to Amir and carry out his orders; even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey.” (Muslim 4554)
Is there ever a circumstance in which Muslims should not obey the ruler? Only when he commands something sinful. Yet another hadith has Muhammad saying: “It is obligatory upon a Muslim that he should listen (to the ruler appointed over him) and obey him whether he likes it or not, except that he is ordered to do a sinful thing. If he is ordered to do a sinful act, a Muslim should neither listen to him nor should he obey his orders.” (Muslim 4553)
So al-Baghdadi seen eating a ham sandwich wouldn’t do the trick, but al-Baghdadi spotted forcing another Muslim to eat a ham sandwich just might.
Sherman also says: “We need State Department people to [have] an understanding of Islamic jurisprudence. That’s not the kind of knowledge that you can get at Princeton. Woodrow Wilson did a great job. He did not memorize the Koran.” What he means by dragging Woodrow Wilson into this is unclear, but he is spot-on that State Department analysts should have a good knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence. Of course, that is forbidden by Obama administration policy.
“Congressman Seeks Ham Sandwich to Defeat ISIS,” by John Hudson, Foreign Policy, May 17, 2016 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):
A U.S. lawmaker criticized State Department efforts to combat the Islamic State Tuesday, saying American officials suffered from a “Eurocentric” understanding of the world. His suggestion: Instead of propagating videos that expose the group’s brutality, diplomats should catch the terror group’s leadership eating non-halal deli meats and disseminate that footage.
“We have a State Department with people who think that you can show the evil of al-Baghdadi if you can show him personally executing a defenseless Yazidi,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), referring to the Islamic State’s leader. “We need people who understand that if you can just get a picture of him eating a ham sandwich, that would undermine ISIS and its recruiting ability.”
The State Department and Congress have long disagreed about the best methods of fighting the root causes of terrorism. Lawmakers often allocate money for hard security measures, such as law enforcement and border control, while Foggy Bottom emphasizes the importance of programs on prison deradicalization, rehabilitation and good-governance.
In his rather unique critique, Sherman chided the department’s habit of recruiting a workforce with Ivy League credentials.
“We need State Department people to [have] an understanding of Islamic jurisprudence,” he said. “That’s not the kind of knowledge that you can get at Princeton. Woodrow Wilson did a great job. He did not memorize the Koran.”…