Vox: Media, President Must End Political Correctness About Radical Islam

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

One of Vox’s authors who has been at the forefront of the push to denounce critics of radical Islam as “Islamophobes” has dramatically reversed course on the issue of ISIS’ connection to Islam.

On Thursday, Max Fisher said it’s time for the president to stop pretending no such connection exists. Just as significant, he revealed that he and others in the media have been intentionally misleading Americans out of a desire to control what readers think about Islam.

Obama is faltering. He has veered so far into downplaying Islamist extremism that he appears at times to refuse to acknowledge its existence at all, or has referred to it as violent extremism. While he has correctly identified economic and political factors that give rise to extremism, he has appeared to downplay or outright deny an awkward but important fact: religion plays an important role as well. This is backfiring. Obama’s conspicuous and often awkward attempts to sidestep the role of religion in Islamist extremism end up only drawing more attention to it.

Fisher has previously written numerous articles for Vox claiming, for instance, that those who objected to his invocation of the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast were hate-mongers and Islamophobes. Today, Fisher said it’s time for Obama to tell the truth about ISIS: they are religiously and historically connected to Islam.

While ISIS’s Islam is reviled and rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims, the group and others like it are at least in part an earnest religious phenomenon, motivated by not-wholly-inaccurate revivals of puritanical medieval Islam, as well as by more modern — but still Islamic — strains of political Islamism. It is important for Americans to see that, and to see that their president sees it.

But Fisher goes beyond stating the truth to pointing out why he and so many others in the media have been seemingly eager to help the president conceal it.

To be fair to the Obama administration, the idea that ISIS and al-Qaeda are totally divorced from “real” Islam is one that the media — including me — have furthered as well. Motivated by a well-intentioned desire to curb Islamophobia, perhaps as well as a desire to undermine these groups’ ideology, this media narrative is nonetheless analytically incomplete. Worse, it is condescending, by suggesting that readers cannot be trusted with the truth.

The media knows what is true but they also know what they readers are supposed to think. Though he doesn’t use the phrase, what Fisher is describing is political correctness. Will anyone else in the media admit this has been driving coverage, or will Fisher become a pariah for doing so?


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