Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed Caliph, leader of ISIS, genocidaire, rapist, and slaver, is dead.
President Trump announced his death, along with substantial detail about the flawless operation that killed him, on a Sunday morning.
Days later, America’s mainstream media and much of the rest of the left is still trying to get in touch with its feelings about Baghdadi’s passing. The Washington Post set the tone immediately with a respectful obituary for this “austere religious scholar.” Baghdadi, we have learned, was a serious teenager and a leader of men. A tad extreme perhaps, but a great man nonetheless.
Meanwhile, these same progressives have found much to criticize in President Trump’s announcement. Did the president really have to talk about Baghdadi’s “crying and whimpering?” Was it appropriate to note that Baghdadi “died like a dog?” Was it necessary to note that a dog — ritually unclean, or haram under Islam — played a critical role in Baghdadi’s death?
Trump’s announcement, the progressive press laments, seemed designed to pile humiliation and indignity upon this worthy adversary, this simple cleric, this man of God. They contrast it unfavorably with the far more respectful, dignified treatment President Obama deployed in announcing the operation that killed al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden.
It’s tempting to see such comments as merely an expression of the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) that has already paralyzed much of the country. Progressives have internalized such a deep loathing of this president that they see Baghdadi not as the cruel tyrant he was, but rather as the enemy of their enemy.
TDS, however, understates the problem. The progressive soft spot for Baghdadi arises because progressives embrace Islamism as the only authentic expression of contemporary Islam. Their mixed messages reflect deeply conflicted feelings. To America’s progressives, the ISIS Caliphate was excessive, but authentic. Baghdadi was a well-intentioned if overzealous advocate for his people.
The de facto alliance between Western progressives and Islamists has received far less attention than it deserves. It’s an alliance borne of a deep problem. The Muslim world — roughly twenty percent of the global population — is having a hard time digesting the vast changes of the past few centuries. Important, mainstream movements within Islam differ greatly about which elements of Islamic tradition to emphasize, which elements of modernity to embrace, and how to synthesize the two. The tension among these Islamic movements is so significant that it generates frequent bloodshed.
The most violent of these movements also turn their rage outward, threatening to unleash terrorism across the planet. “Islamism” is one important branch of mainstream Islam. It’s an umbrella term covering all Muslim movements that draw upon Islam’s earliest conquests as a model for contemporary politics, and elevate this belief above all others. Islamists are intolerant, brutal, violent, and fiercely committed to their faith-driven, warlike, imperial, supremacist worldview.
Because no one can stand idle while a fifth of the globe is engaged in such internal warfare, everyone outside the Muslim world must find allies within it. The question for those of us who are not Muslim is thus where within Islam we look for allies.
Progressivism has chosen to ally itself exclusively with Islamism and Islamist organizations, most prominently the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood, the (Shia) Islamic Republic of Iran, and their apologists. Regimes like Qatar and Turkey, terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, media outlets like Al-Jazeera, journalists like Jamal Khashoggi, and American organizations like CAIR and ISNA, all fall beneath this Islamist umbrella.
To progressives, the only legitimate voices for any group deemed oppressed are the voices of entitlement and rage. In the words of Democrat Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, “We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice.” To progressives, Islamist rage alone marks the movement as deeply authentic.
President Obama’s policies, including his behavior surrounding bin Laden’s death, reflect this Progressive-Islamist alliance. He sought to sanction only specific Islamists whom he deemed un-reformable and un-tameable. Even when confronting them, however, he did so in a manner likely to ruffle as few feathers as possible among the ideological Islamists he was cultivating.
Thankfully, Islamism is only one of several ideologies available to today’s Muslims. President Trump has wisely chosen to reach out to Muslims who appreciate the evil of Islamism, and see it as the threat that it is to their own faith and their own communities.
The humiliation he heaped upon Baghdadi was intentional, strategic — and correct. It was a message to all decent Muslims around the world that Islamism leads only to degradation. It spoke loudly to the senses of honor and shame far more central to Muslim society than to contemporary American culture.
The media response to Baghdadi’s death has indeed been revelatory. It manifests a far deeper problem than TDS. It manifests an affinity for Islamism that America — and Western Civilization — cannot afford.
Bruce Abramson is the President of Informationism, Inc., a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, and the founder of the American Restoration Institute. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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