President Obama Explains Why He Won't Use The Term "Radical Islam" — And Cements His Legacy In The Process
On Tuesday, following increased tension over the possible connections between the devastating shooting in Orlando and the terrorist group, ISIS, President Barack Obama delivered a powerful speech condemning presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump's dangerous proposals to ban Muslims from the United States. With the kind of fire in his eyes (or, rather, with that tired, sadness from having to do this all over again) the president slammed Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric outright — even though he never specifically named Trump. Hearing Obama speak made it clear to me that he has the long-term goals of not only ensuring his legacy, but national unity at the top of his mind.
Obama noted in his speech that his refusal to throw the phrase "radical Islam" around isn't some arbitrary semantic move or a matter of "political correctness." Instead, Obama argued that the framing of these conversations require far more care and nuance in order to maintain America's legacy as a nation that welcomes all people regardless of their creeds:
And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and al Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people; that they speak for Islam. That's their propaganda. That's how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion — then we're doing the terrorists' work for them.
The decision to not use the term "radical Islam" — which I find to be careless terminology — and to stress the need to protect Muslim citizens (not just of the United States, but of the world) are refreshing and powerful.
I also realize we've heard Obama's words before — and not just from him. The argument that ISIS wants the world to stand divided, that they want Muslim individuals to feel that they have no home, no community outside of their extremist camps isn't exactly new. With this argument comes the recognition that Americans can't feed into the image ISIS is trying to sell. Simply put, it is a stance that Obama has held for a while now — that the American people must maintain control over the climate of ignorance and fear, remaining united regardless of religious, party or identity — and it's likely to be one of the greater parts of his legacy when we talk about this era of uncertainty years down the line.