"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.
It is always instructive to listen to the words of converts who once were committed to the violent imposition of Islam on others. They have a unique perspective that can serve as a useful warning for those who believe the fanatics mean what they say and say what they mean. One of them is Walid Shoebat, (www.shoebat,com), a former PLO terrorist who converted to Christianity. Shoebat, a name he assumed for his own safety, says the president's approach to Islam is dangerous: "Speaking in such absolute terms has seemingly limited America's area of focus on al-Qaida. This plays right into the militants' hands."
As a former terrorist, Shoebat claims that deception and confusion are the reasons for so many different Islamic groups. "Islam is the banner under which different militant groups share a common alliance," he says. "When you single out only one of those groups as the enemy, the others basically get a free pass, or at least much less attention." The president did this when singling out al-Qaida, thus appearing to give a pass to numerous other groups that march under the banner of Islam, including Hamas, Hezbollah and The Muslim Brotherhood. Their charters, statements and actions demand no compromise with Israel or anyone else in the pursuit of a Middle East free of the Jewish state. If they achieve their ultimate objective, the region would be free of all Jews, who are referred to by Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, and other Islamic extremists, as pigs and apes and who, according to a Hamas TV skit, "drink the blood of Muslims." Do these words have meaning? We ignore them at our peril.
In his speech in Ankara, President Obama echoed his predecessor when he praised Islam as a religion that "has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world." Mr. Obama's prepared text included the phrase "for the better," but he did not speak those words. I wonder why? Is it because words mean something and the president didn't mean those three?