Yes, It Matters to Say 'Radical Islam'

By Ben Shapiro | June 16, 2016 | 9:53am EDT
President Obama pauses while speaking to members of the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 13, 2016. Obama said there's no clear evidence that the shooter at an Orlando nightclub was directed to conduct his attack or part of a larger plot. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Obama took to the microphones on Tuesday to rant about the great evil facing Western civilization: Donald Trump's insistence that Obama use the phrase "radical Islam" in describing a radical Muslim's killing of 49 Americans at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Obama's original comment on the attack consisted of some platitudes about gun control and some happy talk about "various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet." You know, like in those rogue "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" chat rooms.

After Trump slapped Obama for failing to use the phrase "radical Islam," Obama, clearly disturbed, lashed out: "That's the key, they tell us. We can't beat ISIL unless we call them 'radical Islamists.' What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is: none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction." He added: "There is no magic to the phrase 'radical Islam.' It's a political talking point; it's not a strategy."

If it's a political distraction, why not just do it?

If it's a talking point that bothers millions of Americans, why not just use it?

If words mean nothing, why not just say them?

Because Obama knows that the words "radical Islam" mean something. And he doesn't like what they mean.

The words "radical Islam" don't mean — contrary to his straw man — that all Muslims are terrorists, or that Muslims will run to terrorism out of fear of the very term "radical Islam." As Andrew McCarthy rightly points out on National Review: "our enemies despise us and do not judge themselves by how we talk about them. At best, they are indifferent to our language; otherwise, they are so hostile that they mock our 'progressive' obsession over it."

And the words "radical Islam" are not a substitute for strategy, obviously. Hillary Clinton said "radical Islamism" this week, and then said that she'd essentially maintain Obama's Middle East strategy that led to the rise of ISIS and its regional growth and international spread.

What the words "radical Islam" do say is that religious ideology matters — that certain world problems can't be solved by appeal to transnational redistributionism or deliberate attempts to curb American power in favor of great equality among civilizations. Obama thinks that if he ignores the religious ideology of our enemies, they'll come around so long as we pull back and then offer them material goods. That's why his very own State Department suggested that ISIS be given jobs.

But they won't. That's what the phrase "radical Islam" recognizes: The only way to bring people back from the brink is a religious transformation. And that's a pretty serious problem, since people hold their religious beliefs far more closely than any other belief system. It means that it's not enough for a few fringe Muslims to condemn terrorism. It means true reformation, of the sort proposed by Egyptian leader General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, not wishful thinking about the current state of the Muslim world, which is replete with fundamentalism that provides impetus to radical Islamic movements.

And that's why Obama won't say the phrase. To say it would be to recognize a problem he wishes didn't exist, a problem that undercuts his entire worldview.

And so more Americans will die. The left will babble on endlessly about Islamophobia and gun control while ignoring the only worthwhile goal in a war on radical Islam: the destruction of radical Islam itself.

Ben Shapiro, 32, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KRLA 870 Los Angeles and KTIE 590 Orange County, host of "The Ben Shapiro Show," and editor-in-chief of He is The New York Times best-selling author of "Bullies." He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles.

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