A lanky young President Obama steps off Air Force One into the shimmering heat of Riyadh and is presented with a 21 gun salute. The Saudi National Guard snaps to attention, the obligatory walk down the red carpet and our president rides the escalators to the Royal Reception Room for consultations with King Abdullah.
Obama's carefully-prepared remarks mention Saudi Arabia is where Islam began. His deft and accurate pronunciation of "shukhran" = thank you, belies his aw-shucks attitude about foreign languages: he claims he never learned one. Yet I think he's more than parroting a phrase: Nicholas Kristof heard him recite the Adhan, the Islamic call to prayer. By all accounts his accent is good. I remember wrapping my own mouth around the tongue-twister: الصلاة خير من النوم = alsalatu khayru min annawm = prayer is better than sleep.
Our president was just a little kid in Indonesia, but he's read the Qu'ran in Arabic, aloud, and the Adhan is engraved into his brain, as it is into everyone who has ever heard the call of the muezzin in Muslim lands. Obama says the Adhan is the most beautiful sound at sunset.
Yesterday, our president gave a 55 minute speech, replete with many kind words for Islam. The Muslims are not impressed. They heard the same sort of thing from George W. Bush after 9/11. Already, Barack Obama has begun to renege on many of his early promises: closing Guantanamo proved more than he'd bargained for and neither Iraq nor Afghanistan shows much improvement in the larger scheme of things.
Barack Obama said Islam was not the enemy. This is not true. Islam makes no apology: its aim is to subdue the entire world to itself. Islam has not given a square inch of ground, has not allowed for freedom of religion anywhere under its control and has firmly opposed the separation of Church and State.
I fear Barack Obama lacks the fundamental awareness of how serious the threat of State Islam has become in the world. His only exposure to Islam was in Indonesia: he was never obliged to live under shari'a law. Seen from afar, Islam is a simple, cleanly, abstract religion almost entirely devoid of theology. Seen from within, it is not a whit different than Christianity at its worst, when Europe nearly destroyed itself in internecine religious wars. Islam, as I have said times without number, is more a political system than a religion.
We in the West see the world through the lenses of the Reformation and all that followed. Napoleon imposed secularism on Europe and where he conquered, we in the West reaped the benefits. Our own country, the United States, resolutely opposed the commingling of Church and State, for we had seen religious persecution under the British. We were founded on the principles of Freedom of Religion and therefore became the most religious nation on earth.
Islam makes no such allowances. Islam demands tolerance and special dispensations for itself in the UK and the USA. The French endured the worst of the predations of the Church: their Revolution was a direct repudiation of the Church's power in the affairs of men and are far less willing to tolerate Islam's shrill demands.
I am a Liberal Democrat and a Christian: thus I style myself. One of the reasons I rejected the Republican Party was its disgusting tendency to cuddle up to Moral Majorities and factions of intolerance. Yet more than Democrat, I am an American. To be an American is to maintain a healthy distrust of both Church and State. Though I will argue with them, I believe the Atheists are the canaries in the coalmine: their view of Religion is the only sane and impartial one worth considering.
Our president is a kindly man, well-travelled and urbane. He is a man of the world: a man seemingly predisposed to extend the hand of friendship to any who would take it. Yet Obama must realize State Islam is not America's friend and can never extend anything but the bony finger of invidious blame and the quarterstaff of tyranny. We remain the Great Satan, the Crusader, and we cannot be otherwise: for we are a secular state.
Statecraft being what it is, Obama chooses his words carefully. He used the phrase "Muslim communities", a prudent and meaningful combination of words. He knew exactly how it would be translated into Arabic, probably working forward and backward through the Arabic and English until he had it nuanced to his satisfaction. The Islamic State is antithetical to the USA and its interests.
It is the cruelest of ironies to realize the legacy of our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the formation of two more Islamic States. My previous blog entry alluded to both Iran and the USA failing to export their revolutions. After Bush the Wiser's war in Iraq, he leaned on Emir Sabah of Kuwait to democratize just a bit, and he did. The results were terrible: now Kuwait is more conservative, more repressive. Americans believe our forms of Democracy are best and it is not always true: democratic elections in Gaza and Lebanon are producing majorities for both Hamas and Hizb'allah. Without the institutions of a free press, independent judiciaries and the separation of Church and State, we now see tyrannies of the majority and Islamic courts.
Islam is sick and tired of the so-called Islamic State. As much as we hear from Islam about our support for Israel, darker and angrier voices are muttering about our support for the tyrannous Saudis and Mubarak of Egypt. We have always supported them, they are the Devils We Know.
I cannot say where all this will lead: Obama means well and everyone knows it. I fear he will, like so many other well-meaning idiots, fail to take the threat of State Islam seriously. State Shinto perverted Japan into a nation of xenophobes, suicidal maniacs and cruel overlords. State Islam is no different, and our president should know it.