With its outrageous front page that had more than a hint of bigotry, the New York Post joined conservatives in trying to bully President Obama into declaring that America is at war with the Muslim religion.
Thursday’s front page pictured Obama wearing a blindfold and is emblazoned with the words “Islamic terror? I just don’t see it.”
The debate over the extremists has become a tiresome game played by political conservatives and their media supporters like the Post—which also has a history of racially offensive front pages and political cartoons.
When white hate groups commit brutal hate crimes in America, there’s no outcry to call them Christian terrorists because most reasonable observers conclude that their religion has very little to do with their hateful act. But when a handful of the world’s more than a billion Muslims commit acts of terror, it becomes all about their religion.
Obama addressed this issue head-on during his speech at the conclusion of a White House conference on confronting extremism.
“We have to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence. Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge. So I want to be very clear about how I see it,” he said.
“Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders—holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the ‘Islamic State.’ And they propagate the notion that America—and the West, generally—is at war with Islam. That’s how they recruit. That’s how they try to radicalize young people.”
Conservatives have been all too willing to play their game, eagerly proposing that the U.S. is fighting the entire Muslim religion. But the president has been pushing his political opponents and coarsely simplistic publications like the New York Post to understand that he’s trying to play chess while they’re playing…marbles—not even checkers.
Of course, when the issue is Obama and the Muslim religion, there is also the probability that the Post is sending out a dog whistle to conservatives who still believe the president is hiding Muslim roots. The thinking: Of course he’s protecting Islam—he’s a Muslim!
“We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie,” Obama said. “Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders—they’re terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
“Of course, the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology,” the president added. “They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”