Thursday, September 18, 2014

Obama at the Gates of Vienna


September 16, 2014

Sobieski at Vienna by Juliusz Kossak.
Battle of Vienna

Barack Obama is at the Gates of Vienna. But America is not at war with Islam! Got that? As a matter of fact, all those ISIS (or ISIL) people cutting off heads in those videos? They aren’t Islamic at all, according to President Obama:

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim....ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

Never mind that the beheaders have dropped the “In Syria” or “In the Levant” and simply refer to all their accumulated turf — now the size of Great Britain — as just “IS” as in “Islamic State.” Or that they may have as much as $2 billion in stolen assets.

Who lives in the kind of fantasy that believes a self-proclaimed Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam? The atheist Sam Harris has noted this presidential assertion, agog. Writes Harris at his blog in a post titled “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon”: 

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away — either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas — jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy — reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly — but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

Harris makes a point of saying: “In drawing a connection between the doctrine of Islam and jihadist violence, I am talking about ideas and their consequences, not about 1.5 billion nominal Muslims, many of whom do not take their religion very seriously.” However, he goes on to point out that:

a belief in martyrdom, a hatred of infidels, and a commitment to violent jihad are not fringe phenomena in the Muslim world. These preoccupations are supported by the Koran and numerous hadith. That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammed Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has). If you can find an important distinction between the faith he preaches and that which motivates the savagery of ISIS, you should probably consult a neurologist.

Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam — and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it — is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces. But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture. A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran. The reality of martyrdom and the sanctity of armed jihad are about as controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under Christianity. It is not an accident that millions of Muslims recite the shahadah or make pilgrimage to Mecca. Neither is it an accident that horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim world. Each of these practices, including this ghastly method of murder, find explicit support in scripture.

And so they do. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the late Christopher Hitchens took to the pages of the UK’s Guardian to raise the then-new point to a shell-shocked world that the date September 11th had a specific symbolism in the Islamic world. Wrote Hitchens:

It was on September 11 1683 that the conquering armies of Islam were met, held, and thrown back at the gates of Vienna.

Now this, of course, is not a date that has only obscure or sectarian significance. It can rightly, if tritely, be called a hinge-event in human history. The Ottoman empire never recovered from the defeat; from then on it was more likely that Christian or western powers would dominate the Muslim world than the other way around. In our culture, the episode is often forgotten or downplayed, except by Catholic propagandists like Hilaire Belloc and GK Chesterton. But in the Islamic world, and especially among the extremists, it is remembered as a humiliation in itself and a prelude to later ones. (The forces of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza once published a statement saying that they could not be satisfied until all of Spanish Andalusia had been restored to the faithful as well.)

What Hitchens left out is the chilling demand that Mehmet IV, the Sultan of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, made of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I:

Primarily we order You to await Us in Your residence city of Vienna so that We can decapitate You.…We will exterminate You and all Your followers.…Children and grown-ups will be exposed to the most atrocious tortures before put to an end in the most ignominious way imaginable…

In one way or another, what ISIS and their “global caliphate” is all about is refighting the Battle of Vienna — and getting a different outcome. Like it or not, the president finds himself in the position of, as it were, defending the West. A job he repeatedly seems to find uncomfortable if not downright distasteful.

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