February 8, 2015

President Obama Strikes A Universalist Tone In A Speech Denouncing Religious Intolerance

Killing in the name of God is a proud human tradition that transcends religions, races, regions, and ages. Invoking Heaven to justify murder of political and religious opponents is the one thing that brings radicals of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions together. 
"So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities – the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends? 
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ…. So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith." - President Barack Obama, "Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast" February 5, 2015. 
"Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.' 
Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.'" - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. 
"The outrage on the right about Obama’s entirely correct observations derives from a kind of Christian nationalism, in which Christians can do no wrong or are not responsible for the wrongs done by other Christians. The point is, that may be so, but neither are Muslims responsible for the loonier of their coreligionists. Those complaining about a “false equivalency” are just using a meaningless buzzword. Here’s a better one: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." - Juan Cole, "Why Obama is Right to avoid double standard about Modern Christian Atrocities" February 7, 2015.
Most members of ISIS, including the leadership, have no knowledge of Islam, probably not even of the intolerant and radical strain of Islam that they zealously follow. French journalist Didier Francois said in an interview with CNN that his discussions with ISIS captors did not revolve around religion but politics. Their ignorance of religious traditions is shocking only to people who take their Islamic symbolism and statements seriously.

The authorities of Sunni scholarship in the Arab world have refuted ISIS's claims to Sunni authority in an open letter addressed to the leader of ISIS, and posted it online for people to read.

In all his speeches on terrorism President Obama has wisely distanced the barbarities and cruelties of ISIS (aka Daesh) from the religion of Islam itself. What's even more impressive is that he has delivered the same message on two continents in a matter of days, in front of two vastly different audiences.

Obama gave a speech in India that touched on religious intolerance on January 27. Watch it below.