Sounds like a math or logic problem — you know, the sort of brainteaser that goes, “If a man is two and a half times as old as his daughter who in turn is one and a third times older than her cousin, what street do they live on?” Or maybe it is another example of a “deep thinker” on the left articulating a strategy for combating the war on terror that is “too nuanced” for us mere mortals.
The author is the Daily Beast’s own resident Muslim, Dean Obeidallah, who tweeted the following (since emended) to promote an article of his that attempts to marshal support for Barack Obama’s much maligned and myopic refusal to call a spade a spade:
The author concedes early on “I understand that some will dismiss that as political correctness.” (Maybe Obeidallah is striving for nuance.) He then brings on the heavy artillery, beginning with Rep. Keith Ellison, who said at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, as paraphrased by Obeidallah:
ISIS wants us to believe its actions are based in Islam because it frames the conflict as a religious war between the West and Islam. This then enables these terror groups to claim they are the defenders of Islam, thus assisting them in raising funds and attracting recruits.
Ellison probably views himself as something of an authority on Islam, having converted to it, like so many disillusioned young black Christians, as a remedy for racial grievance and a potential instrument of social change. The question is whether the Islamic State would recognize Ellison as a “true believer.” Considering that the group considers the Muslim Brotherhood, a fellow terrorist group, to be apostates, it is by no means an open-and-shut question.
Which brings up another problem in Obeidallah’s essay. He lumps Islamic terrorist groups together, writing in the first sentence, “If you want to help ISIS and al Qaeda, then call them Islamic.” But al Qaeda and ISIS are cast from different molds. According to William Braniff, executive director at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, and Austin Long, who lectures on security policy at Columbia University, the two groups have radically (pun intended) different aspirations and MOs:
Obeidallah goes on to engage in some conspiracy theorizing, citing a “Jordanian counterterrorism expert Suleiman Bakhit,” who posits that ISIS and al Qaeda want people in the West to misascribe their motives to Islam. That way, when peaceful Muslims are demonized by Islamophobes in the West, the terrorists can say, “See, the West hates Islam! That is why you should join us to fight them.”
Ultimately, the whole enterprise is half-baked and unpersuasive, but that hardly sets it apart from Obeidallah’s other attempts at political anlysis.
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