Cliff May

Meanwhile, a number of major American businesses are instituting Sharia financing – which requires that they hire an imam to vet investments and award a percentage of profits to favored Islamic “charities.” And the Obama administration has supported efforts by the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to have the UN pass a resolution that would bar “negative stereotyping” of religions. If you think that will apply equally to all religions, there’s a bridge in Riyadh I want to sell you.

None of this is meant to suggest that O’Reilly should be beyond criticism. Peter Wehner, a conservative commentator, wrote that what O’Reilly said was wrong – that his remarks were not akin to saying, “the Japanese bombed us at Pearl Harbor” -- which everyone knows (1) to be true, but (2) not a condemnation of all Japanese. Rather, they were like saying, “Catholics are child molesters” which appears to assign guilt not only to deviant priests but to all Roman Catholics.

I think Wehner makes a good point but misses this: No Catholics are molesting children because they believe that’s what they are commanded by Jesus, the Bible or the Pope. No Catholics are denouncing as apostates fellow Christians who oppose the molestation of children.

By contrast, thousands of acts of terrorism are being carried out under Islam’s banner. Muslim reformers grapple with this: Irshad Manji titled her book “The Trouble With Islam Today.” Of course, having written that, she, too, lives under threat from Muslim militants. It’s worth reminding ourselves: It’s not just that most terrorists are Muslims; most victims of terrorism are Muslims, too.

Wehner added that to “be an American means, at least in part, to avoid creating unnecessary divisions over matters of faith.” The possibility that a faith can be the basis for a totalitarian ideology does not fit within the neat boxes of Western thinking. Yet that is exactly what Muslim intellectuals such as Sayd Qutb proposed in the mid-20th century in such books as “Social Justice in Islam,” “Milestones,” (a manifesto of political Islam) and his 30-volume commentary on the Koran. These writings had a profound influence on such Islamist organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood and such jihadi organizations as al-Qaeda. Qutb was translated into Farsi by none other than Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

As I write this, terrorist hit teams – believing Muslims acting on religious conviction -- are being sought in Europe and America. Iran’s theocrats -- whose proxies have for years slaughtered Americans and Israelis -- are in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons. More than ever we need to discuss Islam, Islamism and jihadism – where they connect and where they diverge.

But it’s hard to have such discussions, particularly in the mainstream news and entertainment media, so long as comedians like Whoopi Goldberg and academics like John Esposito are – wittingly or unwittingly – conspiring with extremists to narrow the parameters of free speech.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.