Byline: SD Jewish World — Jan 13, 2015
As the world leaders boldly proclaimed in Paris, “We are Charlie” as the Sunday rally attracted more than 1.7 million people, and more than twice that nationwide. These people gathered to show solidarity to those brave souls who fought for the public’s right to enjoy free speech, the President of the United States, was nowhere to be found, he was “missing in action.” What a pity, the President probably could have silenced some of his critics by attending and proclaiming that the United States stands in solidarity with France against Jihadist fanaticism.
Where was the President? Was he spending the weekend watching NFL football? To date, nobody knows for sure… The official word from the government is that “onerous and significant” security preparations for a presidential visit requires more than the 36-hour advance notice.”
Granted, let’s assume the President had a legitimate excuse for not attending. By not attending the unity rally in Paris on Sunday, President Obama has missed an chance to show leadership, to prove that Americans are as committed to fight against terrorism as anyone else in the world. More importantly: America stands with its allies in a worldwide battle that has no short-term solution.
Alright, let’s assume the President had a legitimate excuse for not attending. Why didn’t the President send Vice President Biden to attend? Why didn’t he send John Kerry in a pinch? Well, we know that John Kerry was lecturing the people of India about the dangers of global warming. President Obama has mentioned on numerous occasions that global warming is far more serious of a threat than global terrorism.
Now it’s time to ask ourselves a more relevant question: How did the people of France interpret our leader’s absence from this event? As a French citizen, traumatized by the latest terrorist attack conducted in the name of ISIS or Al Qaeda, how would you feel? What are the other people of the free world saying about our President?
If I were a Frenchman, I would think that the President of the largest superpower of the free world really does not care about the victims of Jihadism Inc. In fact, let the record show that the President never speaks about an Islamic threat at all, but calls it by the amorphous term “work place violence” or “extremism” and so on.
As it turned out, Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris, but he too was missing in action. He only made taped interviews in a Parisian studio. Holder’s behavior is puzzling. Why did he bother flying to Paris at all? Couldn’t he have stayed in a Washington studio, with some Frenchmen interviewing him with a picture of the Eiffel Tower in the background?
No matter how you look at the optics of the President’s absence, even enthusiastic supporters are scratching their heads.
Permit me to add some perspective to our question. Does anyone remember the movie, The Innocence of Muslims? This 2012 fourteen minute movie on the “Real life” of Mohammad offended millions of Muslims across the world. At a September 25, 2012 address to the United Nations, Obama himself declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” While there were fifty people who were killed as a result of these riots, the President did not defend the producer’s right to express his artistic or political point of view. Instead, he utilized the influence of the White House to keep this film out of circulation.
Worse still, the President gave an insipid speech at the United Nations, where he blamed the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens on a YouTube video. Like many other falsehoods we have heard from our President, the President contorts reality rather than hold the Muslim community responsible for failing to challenge and speak up against Jihadism.
When Nidal Hasan, the infamous Fort Hood shooter killed thirteen people and injured thirty others in November, 2009. Eric Holder made sure that Hasan was only guilty of “work place violence” rather than “terrorism.”
Then again, September of 2009, shortly after the Iranian vote, thousands of dissenters hit the streets and protested—only to be rebuffed by the Iranian secret police and army. The people wanted our President to speak up on behalf of democratic reform in Iran. One would think this is something the President could have done and he would have “appeared” as a champion for democracy.
But did it happen?
No it didn’t.
I suspect that the President’s sympathies are not at all with the Charlie Hebdo, for they unabashedly are lampooning Mohammed and his followers. Far from targeting Muslims in particular, the satirical newspaper has ridiculed everyone from English people to Pope Benedict XVI regarding the sexual scandals of the Vatican.
In one past 2011 issue, “Sharia Hebdo” by David Sessions, features a cartoon of a “guest editor,” the prophet Muhammad threatening readers with “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!” The publication’s offices were fire-bombed after it published this issue.
As you can see, the President has painted himself into a corner. The real reason why he cannot support the French people is because he believes that Charlie Hebdo magazine is wrong for showing their scorn to the prophet and the followers of the “Religion of Peace” (which is really a common misnomer, “Islam” means “the religion of submission.”
Need I say more?
You have to admire Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, whom the French Prime Minister quietly asked not to attend, but he certainly did and showed solidarity with the French Jews, reminding them that “Israel is still their home.”
Two comments from the Muslim world really captured the right kind of response that our President should have considered:
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group said, “Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion.” He added, “The Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history.
A second noteworthy response really cut to the heart of the problem: Egypt’s President al-Sisi opened the new year with a dramatic call for a “revolution” in Islam to reform interpretations of the faith entrenched for hundreds of years, which he said have made the Muslim world a source of “destruction” and pitted it against the rest of the world.
In his January 1st speech at al-Azhar addressing Muslim clerics — held to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday–al-Sisi called on them to promote a reading of Islamic texts in a “truly enlightened” manner to reconsider concepts “that have been made sacred over hundreds of years.”
By such thinking, the Islamic world is “making enemies of the whole world. So 1.6 billion people (in the Muslim world) will kill the entire world of 7 billion? That’s impossible … We need a religious revolution.”
Affifi, from al-Azhar, told the AP that al-Sisi didn’t mean changing texts – something even al-Sisi quickly made clear in his speech.
In short, it is this writer’s opinion that instead of coddling the forces of Islamic extremism, we need as a community, to start promoting the moderate voices of Islam through the power of our media. Unfortunately, the media is dedicated to maintaining the status quo—and such tacit support can only further embolden the fanaticism of the Jihadists.
Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista. Your comment may be posted in the box below or sent directly to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org