"Words must mean something," President Obama said in Prague last week in response to North Korea's missile launch. He was speaking about the numerous resolutions and condemnations of North Korea's actions over the years by the United Nations and others. It is a standard the president should apply not only to North Korea, but also to the Middle East and the Muslim world.
In a speech to Turkey's Parliament, the president said, "The United States is not, and never will be at war with Islam." It was a noble sentiment. Such a unilateral declaration may sooth many in the West, but there is a central question that comes from Mr. Obama's declaration of conscientious objection: What if Islamic extremism is at war with America, Europe and Israel and everyone who stands in the way of its attempt at supremacy in religion and politics?
In some Muslim media, in some textbooks produced for Middle Eastern schoolchildren, at some Islamic schools in America and in recruitment films that urge "jihad" and declare martyrdom to be the highest goal of a Muslim person, one might conclude (if words mean something) that a significant portion of Islam is at war with Judaism, Christianity, and strains of its own religion that do not embrace the extremist view of hell on earth for all who disagree.
In his soothing words to the Islamic world, it would have been useful to hear President Obama challenge Muslims to put their own house in order and evict extremists from it. The president might have asked for a reciprocal statement from Islamic scholars, heads of Islamic states, and people in charge of spreading hate directed at the West that Islam is not at war with America, Israel and Europe. It would also be helpful to hear a pledge that Muslim extremists intend to assimilate in countries to which they have immigrated, embracing the history, language and culture of those nations and eschewing attempts to impose Sharia law, not only on people of their faith, but on others who do not share it.