Perhaps it’s because he was making faces in Qur’an class instead of paying attention to his teacher. Or maybe he just has a selective memory about what he was taught as a young Muslim student in Indonesia.
Whatever the reason, President Barack Obama got a lot of things factually wrong in his 3 February 2016 speech at the Islamic Center of Baltimore. Things that are basic to doctrinal Islam are not only knowable because they are readily available in English but, it might be argued, obligatory that an American commander-in-chief should know in fulfillment of his oath to defend the Constitution against “all enemies foreign and domestic.”
First, Mr. President, a mosque is not simply the Muslim version of a church, synagogue or temple. Because of the example of Muhammad, who is called the perfect man in the Qur’an (believed by Muslims to be the exact words of Allah), we know that mosques are established not only as places of prayer and worship, but also as centers for indoctrination, the dispensing of shariah justice, the stockpiling of weapons, and the launching of jihad. If in doubt about any of this, please check with the French police, who recently have been conducting raids on mosques and Islamic Centers in the wake of horrific jihadist attacks in Paris.
The president must have missed more than one lesson on Arabic grammar, too. When he claims that “the word itself, Islam, comes from salam—peace,” he is mistaken. While the words “Islam” and “salam” share the same three root letters—s, l, m—they are, in fact, very different words with completely different meanings. While “salam” indeed means “peace” in Arabic, “Islam” means “submission.” Submission to what? To Allah and Islamic Law. A “Muslim” is a person who submits. Surely the president knows this. Or maybe the White House Arabic language translator needs to be replaced.
Unfortunately, in pursuit of that submission, Islamic doctrine obligates Muslim conquest of the Dar al-Harb (places not yet subjugated to shariah). We know this not only from the example of Muhammad’s own life as taught to Muslim students from the 1st grade, but also from the Qur’an and hadiths. For example, Qur’an verse 9:29 says: “Fight those who believe not… until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” The Qur’an is quite clear in verse 3:85 as well: ‘Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam will never have it accepted of him…’ Islamic Law defines jihad quite simply: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims.”
This is not cherry-picking Qur’anic verses. This is Islamic doctrine as uniformly presented in the Qur’an, hadiths, biography of Muhammad, and Islamic Law. It is the agreed consensus of all authoritative Islamic scholars throughout the centuries. We may wish that more Muslim scholars would teach the prohibition of terror (jihad). But of course, they cannot teach what is contrary to Islamic doctrine. For the Qur’an itself commands Muslims to “make ready your strength to the utmost of your power… to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy.” (Q 8:60)
And when the President purports to quote the Qur’an about killing an innocent, he either willfully or out of ignorance is misquoting Islamic scripture. In fact, Qur’an verse 5:32 cites from a Jewish commentary on the Talmud: “On that account, We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole people…” This is the definition of killing without right in Islam. The takeaway here is that a Muslim may not kill except those who themselves have killed without right or perpetrated “mischief in the land”—which may include failing to accept Islam. What the President and others too often leave out is the next verse, Q 5:33, which lays out the punishments for those who disobey 5:32. They are: “death, crucifixion, amputation of the hand and foot on opposite sides or exile from the land.” The President might be asked why he left those out, when they are precisely the punishments the Islamic State (IS) is applying to those under its control in faithful obedience to what they believe is the word of Allah. This isn’t an IS version or interpretation of the Qur’an. It is what the Qur’an actually says.
These are just a few of the things the President might have said, were his intention to be accurate about the enemy we fight. He might have added that we are not actually fighting terrorism: we are fighting to defend the Constitution from attack by forces of jihad seeking to impose shariah. This does not mean we must be at war with all Muslims. But all those who fight or support the Global Jihad Movement are on the wrong side of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the way of life Americans treasure because, unlike Islamic doctrine, they enshrine principles of individual liberty, equality before man-made law, government by consent of the governed, and the right to freedoms of belief and speech.
Those, Mr. President, are the “first things” principles we Americans are willing to fight and die for. American Muslims who accept and defend them are patriots, too—but unfortunately, these are not principles to be found anywhere in the authoritative Islamic canon—and Americans need to know that.
Clare M. Lopez is Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy.