To start with: the effect of the FBI’s translation choice is to side with Islam. Full stop. That’s what matters.
And because the translation matters to millions of Christians and Jews in America, it’s more important than what the FBI’s motive was in translating portions of Omar Mateen’s pledges of faith during his radical-Islamic terror attack in Orlando on 12 June. Apologists might say the FBI had an antiseptic, solely “linguistic” motive for rendering each word in an English equivalent. But context is decisive here. Our cultural reality makes it a political lie to do that.
Be clear on this: the FBI had to go out of its way to make an unnecessary translation. There’s no sense in which it’s not extra work to promote a lie here, as opposed to doing less work to present the truth.
That’s a key reason why there are higher priorities to answer to. The Obama administration should have acknowledged the common understanding of the overwhelming majority of Americans: that declarations of faith made by radical Muslims during terror attacks are made to Allah, which is the name Muslims have for their “God.” This understanding is based on exact and repeatedly demonstrated empirical truth. Radical Muslims invoke “Allah” during their terror attacks – never “God.”
Meanwhile, a “God” who accepts pledges from terrorists committing acts of terrorism bears no resemblance to the God YHWH – Jehovah – worshiped by Christians and Jews.
Why should Obama acknowledge that? Aside from his statement that he himself is a Christian? Because he was elected by the people who recognize that whole package of truths and therefore hold that view. Because he owes them respect. Because they – we – are the authors of his political charter, not the other way around.
We can know with 100% certainty that Omar Mateen literally said the Arabic word “Allah,” everywhere it is translated “God” in this absurdly edited and censored transcript (where words are omitted, Mateen was pledging allegiance to ISIS. Emphasis in Townhall excerpt):
Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.
OD: What’s your name?
OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].
OD: Ok, What’s your name?
OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].
But instead of reflecting simple truth, the FBI’s translation both obscures truth, and vaunts untruth.
- It obscures the truth that, for all meaningful purposes, religious terrorism is today exclusively the province of Islam.
- It implies, by contrast, a Big Lie: that there’s an equal chance of terrorism from any religion whose name for the Supreme Being can, by some set of criteria, be translated into a Western language as “God.”
- It pretends, by removing the particular name “Allah,” that Islam is not associated with terrorism at all.
All three of these major effects are favorable for promoting Islam over other beliefs. The second effect is favorable for Obama’s campaign to tar Christians and other non-Muslim Westerners with the brush of generic “violent extremism.” Pretending that calling on “Allah” is simply the functional equivalent of calling on “God” elides everything that actually matters – about Allah versus YHWH – and suggests that believers could be motivated in the same ways by either one.
Obama has no right to ignore that concern of the people, and no justification for ignoring it either. He had a much simpler option than substituting “God” for “Allah”: just use the word “Allah” in the translation. That would have been the exact truth. Everyone knows Mateen said “Allah” anyway. It’s more elaborate, more obviously political, and quite unnecessary from the standpoint of clarity to change “Allah” to “God.”
There’s no excuse for doing it – and as the president of an overwhelmingly Christian nation, with a robust, culturally integrated Jewish minority of longstanding, Obama’s first care should in fact have been that the effect of the translation was to side with Islam.
Clearly, however, his first care was that he not be seen by radical Muslims as siding against Islam. That is apparently one of the chief reasons he and his administration had for presenting the 911 transcript doctored in this way. The other two are (1) that changing “Allah” to “God” serves the Islamic narrative that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God; and (2) that using the generic English “God” effectively genericizes what Obama calls “violent extremism,” implying by extension that it can come from anywhere.