If Only Obama’s Policy on Christian Persecution Were as Sure-Footed as His Dancing

Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison | March 31, 2016 | 3:09pm EDT
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President Barack Obama does the tango with a dancer during the State Dinner at the Centro Cultural Kirchner, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Unlike many of our colleagues, we did not criticize President Barack Obama for dancing the tango during his recent trip to Argentina. It’s not bad for America’s leaders to respect other people’s cultures. In this instance, we only wish the President had danced the tango with our First Lady.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin surely would appreciate the President’s cultural turn on the dance floor. In her excellent book, Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of American Journalism, Goodwin tells the engaging tale of William Howard Taft, his most talented wife, Nelly, and their time in Manila. The hefty Taft astonished and delighted Filipinos by mastering the Rigodon, their intricate and elegant national dance. Appointed as the U.S. Governor of the Philippines, Big Bill and Nelly managed to dance their way into the Filipinos’ hearts with that thoughtful gesture.

If only President Obama’s policy on Christian persecution and genocide were as sure-footed and stately as his dancing! Why was it necessary for thousands of us to pray for, plead with, and pointedly prod our leader to do the right thing? Why did we have to appeal to Heaven and earth so that he would declare the ongoing murders, rapes, and enslavement of Christians by ISIS in the Mideast to be genocide?

We thank him for doing so. And we thank God that now the grudging and grinding machinery of the U.S. State Department may at last be moved to take appropriate actions.

Will America lead the world on this vital matter, or will this administration once again “lead from behind?”

The administration’s actions may have come too late for Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil. Reports indicate that he had been kidnapped during an ISIS raid on a nursing home in Yemen. The nursing home was run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. ISIS’s bloody rampage there killed 16 nurses and nuns. It is no wonder so many of us call ISIS "Islamist Savagery Inspired by Satan."

The Obama administration needs also to attend to the appalling attack by a Taliban-linked Islamist terror cell in Lahore, Pakistan. Scores of women and children were murdered. The casualty list of those seriously wounded will go into the hundreds.

These monstrous actions are combined with jihadist attacks in the West in recent months. The mass murders in Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino testify to the truth that we are not safe, and the enemy is stepping up his attacks.

The Obama administration is staffed by people who are desperately afraid to avoid stepping on the toes of Muslims. We can and should first acknowledge—as former federal prosecutor and prolific writer Andrew C. McCarthy always does—that we could not prevent attacks on the homeland without the active support and intelligence garnered from loyal American Muslims. We want and need their help. And we gratefully acknowledge it when we get it.

It is just as obvious, however, that worldwide the Muslim leaders need to confront these terrorists more effectively. And to do that, they should heed the sound advice of Egypt’s Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Gen. Sisi had the courage to go to Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo. This is Islam’s oldest institution of learning. It is the Muslim Oxford University.

This is what Sisi said:

"It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.  Impossible! That thinking – I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’ – that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world! Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants – that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!”

Some may say that Gen. Sisi is hardly courageous to be so outspoken. After all, he rules with the power of Egypt’s military backing him up. True. But so did Anwar Sadat, and he was assassinated in broad daylight for making peace with the Israelis. Sadat’s long-term successor, President Hosni Mubarak also hailed from the military and, after being ousted, he faced a death sentence. So, now, does ex-President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood pawn whom Sisi overthrew. Sisi knows the consequences of his tough talk.

President Obama went to Al Azhar University in 2009. There, he gave a speech widely hailed by liberals as “a new beginning” in America’s relations with what they deem “the Muslim world.”  That most important speech was full of historical distortions and theological non-sequiturs.

To speak, as liberals speak, of “the Muslim world” is to concede that Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahai, and others have no standing in those Muslim majority lands.

What are their rights in a region President Obama himself (and his liberal Amen corner) calls “the Muslim world?” By the way, Mr. President, serious Muslims regard the entire world as “the Muslim world.”

When was the last time we heard a world leader talk of Christendom? The Constitution-drafters of the European Union went out of their way to avoid any notion of the Christian origins of their civilization. Perhaps that’s why Europe is endangered today.

The President’s errors in 2009 did not stop at the threshold of the Cairo mosque. In his 2009 address, he described the Koran as “Holy,” thus calling into question the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.

Again, we do not expect, nor would it be prudent, for the President of the United States to act as Evangelist-in-Chief, especially when he goes abroad. He represents all the people of the United States. What we don’t need is for our President to fan the fires of Islamist ideology with his rhetoric.

Further, the President himself fed the rumor mill in that 2009 speech by saying that Islam was “revealed” in the Mideast. Surely, Islam had its origins there. And one would not expect a U.S. President to insult his hosts. What would have been wrong with saying: “In this region where Islam was born”? By saying Islam was revealed, he was conceding that Islam has superseded Judaism and Christianity.

President Obama went to Cairo shortly after he bowed to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. That brutal ruler—since deceased—presided over a land where converts to Christianity are beheaded and their headless bodies crucified. No President should ever bow to any foreign leader.

For President Obama to bow to that bad man sent a signal throughout those Muslim majority lands. “See,” the jihadists could tell their cohorts, “even the United States’ President Obama knows we are winning!” Unwittingly, President Obama telegraphed to our enemies that the United States was ripe for attack.

How does administration policy in the Mideast look today, seven years after Mr. Obama’s much-touted Cairo speech?

The region is brimming over with bloodshed. Where once “stability” was achieved only under ruthless desert despots, today we have chaos and calamity. And we see hundreds of thousands of Christian victims of his naïve policy.

President Obama’s frequent mischaracterizations are responsible for his administration’s failure to deal effectively with the threat of Islamist terrorism. Those errors begin with but do not end with his administration’s unwillingness even to acknowledge there is such a thing as Islamist or jihadist terrorism.

When bloodthirsty mobs cry “Allahu Akbar,” they are not celebrating a holiday. They are saying: Our God is Greater. Many world religions make exclusive truth claims. But today, Islam is the one that enforces those claims with violence.

President Obama’s administration has yet to come to grips with that fact. They have yet to show themselves willing to say what Gen. Sisi boldly said in the very heart of Islamic learning: Islam must change.

Until that change occurs, genocide of Christians and murderous threats of annihilation against the Jews in Israel will continue. The world needs to see that change. We need that hope.

And it’s not too late for President Obama. He can yet renew hope and bring change. Will he?

Ken Blackwell is the Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at the Family Research Council. He is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation. Bob Morrison is a veteran D.C. based historian and policy analyst. He served in the Reagan administration at the Department of Education.

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