President Obama’s address to the nation last night sketched out the dangers of violent radicalization for America. He recounted the horrors of the San Bernardino massacre, saying that the “victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife. It is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.”
Obama told Americans that “the threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.” He warned that in destroying ISIS the country must not try to do so by “abandoning our values, or giving into fear.” Following the anti-Muslim proposals some politicians have put forward in the last week would only play into ISIS’s hands.
The president said that to defeat the terrorists, we need to work with the Muslim communities in the United States and abroad “to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.” Attacking Islam will not make America safer, but it may alienate many Muslims.
The president outlined steps being taken to make America more secure. Obama said that he ordered the review of “the visa program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country.” He is also looking at improving security checks for those Canadians and Europeans coming to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program. “[W}e should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to war zones,” he said.
After presenting a practical plan for fighting ISIS and deterring terrorism in the United States, the president turned to the things we should not do. Chief among them was to attack Muslims or declare war on Islam. The president said: “We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world, including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”
The President said 99% of the victims of ISIS are Muslims. ISIS’s terrorism, torture and abuse are directed first and foremost against Muslims of all denominations. Muslims have been speaking out against ISIS since the bloody organization first reared its head, and Muslims have to continue to work for its defeat, said the president. “Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity,” he said.
But non-Muslims can’t be drawn down the road of intolerance against Muslims, President Obama warned. “Just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans—of every faith—to reject discrimination,” he insisted.
Obama acknowledged that demagogues are calling for the closing of mosques and the registration of Muslims, but they are fundamentally un-American in their rantings. Obama said that “even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.”
The fear mongers hope to halt all Muslim immigration. Senator Rand Paul, for example, has proposed cutting off all entries to the United States by people from Muslim majority countries. This would be the beginning of a modern version of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
President Obama told Americans that “It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.” He again warned that we must not form policies that follow the strategy of division ISIS is pursuing. “That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL,” he said, concluding that “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes, and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.”
Two terrorists in San Bernardino cannot be allowed to triumph by setting off a wave of conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims in America. They should not be allowed to turn us from a nation of immigrants into a country of Muslim-haters. We are fools if we allow two people who were so crazed that they left their own child an orphan to determine our immigration and refugee policies.