CAIR Wants Obama to Distinguish Islamic State From Islam

Patrick Goodenough | September 10, 2014 | 7:06pm EDT
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A man purporting to be ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – or “Caliph Ibrahim” – appears in a videoclip giving a sermon in Mosul, Iraq, on Friday, July 4, 2014. (Image: YouTube)" link="/image/abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-0" nid="812000" preset="medium" teaser="0

( – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants President Obama in his speech on ISIS Wednesday night to reject the jihadists’ “misappro-priation of Islamic terms and concepts,” and to recognize that the terrorist group was created by “the lack of freedom and justice in the region.”

CAIR leaders plan to join other local and national Muslim leaders in a Capitol Hill viewing of Obama’s prime-time address to the nation on a strategy to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) threat.

CAIR’s national executive director Nihad Awad made it clear what Muslims in the U.S. will be looking out for in the speech.

“American Muslims will evaluate the president’s strategy based on his willingness to reject ISIS’ misappropriation of Islamic terms and concepts, his clear support for the mainstream opposition to Syria’s murderous regime, his insistence on a non-sectarian government in Iraq, and his recognition that ISIS was created and is fueled by the lack of freedom and justice in the region,” he said.

CAIR, a lobby group that describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization,” regularly campaigns against expressions of what it deems to be “Islamophobia.”

ISIS claims to be acting in the name of Islam, has declared an Islamic “caliphate” and invokes Mohammed and the Qur’an in its propaganda material, but the administration has repeatedly underlined its position that ISIS is unrelated to Islam.

In comments in Baghdad Wednesday Secretary of State John Kerry took the point further, not just restating that ISIS’ ideology “nothing to do with Islam,” but also asserting that its recent declaration of a caliphate has no legitimate religious basis.

“ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam, but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing to do with Islam,” he said, describing it as “evil” and noting that it is terrorizing people in areas it controls “regardless of their sect or ethnicity.”

Kerry is in the region to advance a coalition the administration is building to tackle the ISIS threat, and he said Muslim countries’ contribution to that coalition must include challenging the group on religious grounds.

“Those countries – many others, particularly in the Muslim world – can join together in defining the real Islam and making it clear that there is no legitimacy whatsoever within ISIL for any of the claims that they make with respect to a religious foundation for their caliphate, their state, or for their actions,” he said.

“It is necessary for moderate, reasonable people around the world to repudiate the distortion of Islam that ISIL seeks to spread and to contribute, as they do, to the urgent humanitarian relief effort that is required because of their barbarity.”

ISIS last June declared a caliphate across areas in controls across Syria and Iraq and instructed Muslims everywhere to pledge loyalty to its leader, “Caliph Ibrahim” (aka Ibrahim al-Badri, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.)

By naming himself emir al muminin (“commander of the faithful”), Baghdadi was adopting the title used by Mohammed’s heirs from the 7th century until Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the last caliphate in 1924.

Restoration of the caliphate is a matter of importance for many devout Muslims, but ISIS’ caliphate declaration has been shunned by many mainstream religious figures, including top Sunni clerics and scholars in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Some Islamist groups have embraced the caliphate declaration and pledged fealty to Baghdadi. Others have rejected it – not in principle, but because of the way ISIS went about the process.

“The Islamic Caliphate should not be claimed by any group, but it is a right entrusted to the nation and its scholars and their representatives,” the International Union for Muslim Scholars declared after an assembly late last month.

The group, headed by Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, said Muslim youth should not be “deceived by such claims that are not based on the origin of a legitimate right.”

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