Opinion and analysis: Obama’s Ramadan Speech

Four days ago, on August 13, 2010, President Obama hosted an iftar dinner at the White House as other past Presidents have done. After some time of digesting his speech, I have just a few simple comments that I feel the need to share.

For the full text of his speech, see this article at the New York Daily News.

You can also view the video or download a copy at the Whitehouse website.

The President said:

And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious – a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in contrast to the religious conflict that persists around the globe.

Dear Mr. President: Have you investigated the bulk of such religious conflict that persists around the globe? If you have, you would discovered the majority of persecution is perpetrated at the hands of Muslims — not radicals, or extremists — but every day, man-on-the-street Muslims who are taught from birth to hate Jews and Christians. Daily one can read numerous accounts of how this church or that synagogue was burned or defaced, how Muslims in one nation after another attack Christians and Jews without provocation and torture or murder them. Why did you not use this momentous occasion, while you had the proper audience, to identify the true source of worldwide religious conflict and ask Muslim leaders to end their persecution of those who do not share their faith?

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.

Mr. President: Nobody is denying the Muslim community of lower Manhattan the right to practice their religion. Allowing freedom of worship is one thing; allowing the building of a mosque is entirely a different matter. Nobody said the Muslims should not build a mosque. The question is one of location, not permission or freedom to do so. It is simply inappropriate to build this mosque at the Ground Zero site. It sends the wrong message to the remainder of the world. Even Muslim scholars from majority Muslim nations recognize this. Read this article from MEMRI for one example.

Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders – these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children.

Mr. President: Al Qaeda is no distortion of Islam; it represents true Islam. When one looks at Muhammad’s life, one sees a man who, while he was weak politically and militarily, preached peace and love. But after achieving significant political clout and attaining a large following of warriors, became a ruthless warrior. Al Qaeda is simply following Muhammad’s example.

In the earliest and most authoritative biography of Muhammad, the author Ibn Ishaq summarizes Muhammad’s life thus: “God sent Muhammad with this religion and he strove for it until men accepted it voluntarily or by force. Once they had entered it they were God’s proteges and neighbors under His protection.”

One need only look at the first 100 years after Muhammad’s death to understand his immediate followers continued his example. From 632 to 732 AD, Islam spread eastward from Saudi Arabia up into the fertile crescent, through Persia, and to the west border of present day India. It also spread westward across North Africa into Spain and its advance into Europe was stopped at the Battle of Tours in 732 by Charles Martel. None of this rapid advance of Islam was for defensive purposes only, as Muslims would have us believe today. Nor was it achieved by peaceful means.

Al Qaeda is simply carrying on a long-held tradition that goes all the way back to the prophet of Islam himself.

Tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America.

Mr. President: Do you not realize the vast majority of American see right through your version of revisionist history? Islam has not always been a part of America. Those who came to this country from Europe did so to escape religious persecution — the same sort of persecution that Christians and Jews face at the hands of Muslims daily. They came here to establish religious freedom — the sort of religious freedom forbidden in Muslim nations. There were no Muslim signatories to the Declaration of Independence, or of the Constitution. I don’t know how you define always, but it’s not the same definition I understand.

The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan—making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.

President Jefferson hosted the ambassador of Tunisia to discuss the problem with piracy at the hands of Muslim pirates. Jefferson was the first President to have a Qur’an, not because he was interested in Islam per se, but in order to understand the mindset of Muslim pirates to better form a strategy for their defeat. In fact, the Marine Corps hymn alludes to this issue in its opening verse: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

Muslim American clerics have spoken out against terror and extremism, reaffirming that Islam teaches that one must save human life, not take it.

The verse alluded to in the Qur’an here is Sura Al Ma’idah 5:32. The portion of this verse most often quoted (and quoted by Obama last year, and by President Bush earlier) is, “If anyone slew a person… it would be as if he slew the whole of mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he save the life of the whole of mankind”

Unfortunately President Obama, and Muslim apologists, always stop at the end of this verse. Should the read the very next verse, they would immediately recognize the futility of their argument. Verse 33 reads, “The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and strive with might and main for mischief through the land, is execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land.”

This verse says specifically that those who come against Allah, the god of Islam, and spread mischief in the land ( a euphemism for denying that Islam is the true religion, or denying that Allah is the true god, or denying Muhammad as a prophet) is capital punishment.

The Qur’an does not say that all human life should be spared, Mr. President. It says that all human life that worships according to the tenets of Islam should be spared, and others should be executed. Again, Al Qaeda is simply following what the Qur’an teaches.

As an interesting side note. verse 32 quoted above (If anyone slew a person … if anyone  saves the life of one person…) is not ordained by God and is not God’s words. The source of this quotation can be traced to the Jewish Mishna Sanhedrin, where a Jewish scribe who, while studying Genesis 4:10, made a margin note that reads:

“As regards Cain who killed his brother, the Lord addressing him does not say “the voice of thy brother’s blood cries out”, but “the voice of his bloods [plural], meaning not his blood alone but that of his descendants, and this is to show that since Adam was created alone, so he that kills an Israelite is, but the plural used here, counted as if he had killed the world at large; and he who saves an Israelite is counted as if he had saved the whole world.”

I wonder how many Muslims realize the words of  Jewish scholar found their way into the Qur’an ascribed as holy writ from the hand of Allah himself. This verse alone should be more than enough proof that the Qur’an is not divinely inspired, but the invention of a mere mortal man, Muhammad.

President Obama’s Ramadan speech was more significant in what it did not say than what it did say. Here I have attempted to fill in a few holes in what was not said.

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