Why is the president soft on Islam?

Since he was elected to office there have been no lack of people who have accused President Obama of being soft on Islam. I regularly see in my Facebook feed commenters who yet consider Obama some kind of closeted Muslim. This in spite of the fact that he’s only asserted that he is a Christian since before he was elected. While the president is clearly sympathetic to Islam he has not made a public declaration of being Muslim.

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Earlier this year President Obama was accused of equating Christianity with extremism. In the context of that speech it does not appear he did so. He equated extremism with extremism. He appeared to be saying extremism exists in any or all religions, and is always wrong. He said, for instance,

We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

The speech did get me thinking: why does the president seem to always affirm Islam? Why does he appear “soft” in the minds of so many Americans. Read the words for yourself from numerous speeches:

“Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace.” Remarks made on Eid Al-Fitr, The Islamic Center of D.C.


“America treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality. This year, may Eid also be a time in which we recognize the values of progress, pluralism, and acceptance that bind us together as a Nation and a global community.” Remarks made on Eid Al-Fitr


“Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.” Statement made to reporters in the Oval Office


“Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” Remarks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, D.C.


“America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country.” Remarks in San Jose, CA


“This year, Eid is celebrated at the same time as Hanukkah and Advent. So it’s a good time for people of these great faiths, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, to remember how much we have in common: devotion to family, a commitment to care for those in need, a belief in God and His justice, and the hope for peace on earth.” Remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room


“According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the Holy Qur’an to the prophet, Muhammad, during the month of Ramadan. That word has guided billions of believers across the centuries, and those believers built a culture of learning and literature and science. All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements.” Remarks at Iftaar Dinner, the State Dining Room, D.C.


“The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God, as revealed through The Holy Qur’an. It teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace.” Message for Ramadan


“All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.” Remarks in Warsaw, Poland


“I have assured His Majesty that our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know — that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.” Remarks with His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan, The Oval Office


“I’ve made it clear, Madam President, that the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.” Remarks with President Megawati of Indonesia, The Oval Office


“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.” Remarks at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.

If it was ever in doubt it would be uncharacteristic of the president to say anything about Islam that is not positive. He appears “soft” on Islam, going out of his way to commend it as often as possible.

That George W. Bush. He was quite a softie.

That is correct. George W. Bush not Barack Obama made those statements. Every quote above was made by George W. Bush and recorded in the White House archives. And there are more along the same line.

President George W. Bush was as complimentary of Muslims and Islam as President Barack Obama. Bush constantly made distinctions between Islam and Al Qaeda (ISIS did not yet exist). Bush called Islam a “peaceful religion” on more than one occasion. It is noteworthy that each of Bush’s statements was made after 9/11, not before.

If you want to make the case Obama is soft on Islam or affirms it or is too friendly toward it, you will see the same softness, affirmation, and friendliness in George W. Bush. This is not to argue Obama is not friendly toward Islam; clearly he is. As president of a religiously free society it might be problematic for Obama to favor one religion above another. (Though Obama has only ever and repeatedly, as late as yesterday at Clementa Pickney’s funeral, claimed to be a Christian himself.)

To read this post as in some way supportive of Obama over Bush is to misread it. This is a post about information consumption, not personalities.

Context and preference can make a lot of difference in how we consume information. When we evaluate the truthfulness of a comment based on our like or dislike of the one doing the commenting we may fall into the trap of confirmation bias. It is a trap we do well to avoid.

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Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

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