President Obama gave a speech about his plans to deal with the latest Middle East based terrorist group called ISIS or ISIL depending on how much fear mongering you need. While ISIL is based on a perverted version of Islam, the President shouldn’t be using a ‘No True Scotsman’ argument to point it out. It isn’t his job to decide if a group is following a particular religion correctly or not.
The President spoke on September 10th in a nationally televised address about his plans to “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.” However one part of his speech really bothered me.
“Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
The part of the statement “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents” is suggesting a “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy.
“No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy by which an individual attempts to avoid being associated with an unpleasant act by asserting that no true member of the group they belong to would do such a thing; this fallacy also applies to defining a term or criteria biasedly as to defend it from counterargument which can be identified as a biased, persuasive, or rhetorical definition.”
The fact is that most, if not all the members of ISIL, practice Islam and the group’s goals are Islamic so the President is wrong, ISIL is Islamic – their own perverted version of it but it is based on Islam. They have said that other Muslims aren’t true to Islam as they see it so how can the President use the same kind of argument the other way?
Also there is debate inside all religions about who is “innocent”. People who don’t practice the right religion or the right kind of the dominate religion are not “innocent” in their eyes. Again the President is making the argument from an outsider perspective.
It isn’t the President’s job to debate or argue about any theology in his public official capacity. One reason is since he isn’t a member of the religion in question his argument is suspect and second, in our secular government, religion is not something our government leaders should be debating in the first place. This time it is the terrorists aren’t “Islamic” next time abortion bombers aren’t “Christian” and then we fall down the slippery slope of the government getting knee deep in theology.
President Obama would have made a more logical argument by stating that ‘while not all Muslims are extremist, ISIL is giving Muslims a bad name.’
Focusing on splitting hairs about who is a true adherent and who isn’t is a bad argument to make and one the President of the United States should not be making. Let Muslims judge ISIL’s religious bonafides.
Terrorism is a crime no matter what belief system one uses to justify it and that should have been the only focus of the speech.