The terrifying and brutal attack in Paris on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, reminds us that the West is in a struggle between the savage and civilization. Whether the perpetrators are caught or not, the attack will have its desired effect. It will intimidate the next set of journalists who think about writing about Islam in a way that is not acceptable to a significant portion of the Muslim community that does not share the Western ideal of the free marketplace of ideas.
It would seem, from Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks, that he understands the stakes, saying in a statement yesterday that “Today’s murders are part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations – no – but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.”
But the administration’s actions leave it an open question just which side it’s on.
Yale University Press, which published The Cartoons the Shook the World in 2009, about the offensive cartoons caricaturing Mohammed the Prophet without showing the cartoons themselves, is now probably rejoicing in that decision. President Barack Obama, who came down hard on Sony Corporation for its initial withdrawal of the movie, The Interview, from the marketplace because of a cyber attack, remained aloof from the controversy over Yale University Press’ decision.
Nowhere in the President’s boilerplate about “standing with France,” and senseless violence not stopping free speech, did he say anything about standing with the courageous people at Charlie Hebdo specifically and what they represented. Indeed, let us never forget that this is the president who said, “The future does not belong to those who slander the Prophet.” Certainly, the twelve French citizens that perished this morning do not have a future. Obama got that one right!
Predictably, the president could not bring himself to mention Islam or Islamist terrorists in his statement on the brutal attack. Apparently, Charlie Hebdo is experiencing another instance of workplace violence similar to the one at Fort Hood.
No one who views the video and descriptions of this terrorist attack could fail to notice that this is a highly organized, professional attack, unlike most terrorist attacks. It was not random; it was targeted. It did not seek to get on the public agenda; it sought to control the public agenda by intimidating the exercise of freedom of the press. It called it out its victims at Charlie Hebdo by name before executing them.
And let no one think this attack had absolutely nothing to do with Islam. It might not be our neighbor’s Islam or the Islam practiced by most Muslims, but it is the Islam practiced by an increasing fundamentalist segment of the religion and tolerated by others, who would not carry out this operation but feel it was justified, and perhaps will give shelter to the perpetrators.
We cannot fight an enemy we refuse to acknowledge. As the news of the atrocity in Paris was unfolding, we learn that the President, in attempting to keep his campaign promise to the radicals in his party, has released people from Guantanamo, about a third of whom have gone back to terrorism and threaten American lives in the Middle East. The president is also releasing prisoners to Yemen, which is in a state of siege and has absolutely no ability to control or even monitor them.
How many more bombings and killings must the West tolerate before it is willing to recognize the enemy and take decisive action to ensure the basic right of all its citizens to leave home without the fear of being a victim of Islamist terrorism?
If we learn anything from this administration, it is that President Obama is more interested in preserving the fiction that these terrorist attacks have nothing to do with Islam than protecting the rest of us from them. In this, he fails in his most fundamental obligation as president, and he also fails those Muslims who do not embrace this radicalism and who are and continue to be the greatest victims of this scourge against humanity.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Political Integrity. This article first appeared in The Daily Caller and is reprinted by permission of the author.