The Washington Post has unwittingly demonstrated the truth that Islam is not a religion of peace, a message it has been loath to acknowledge.
Yesterday, it carried the obituary of self-styled ISIS Caliph Ibrahim, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, under this original headline: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48. Inexplicably, a few hours later, it revised the headline to read, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48. After unremitting sarcasm on Twitter and other social media sites, the Post editors reconsidered again and ran the obituary under a third headline: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.
So, which was he? An austere religious scholar or the terrorist-in-chief extremist leader of the most vicious and diabolical terror organization in modern history? The answer is, both.
This does not sit well with most Westerners, who think of austere religious scholars as those locked away harmlessly in monasteries or ivory towers minding their own business among ancient, dusty tomes, having nothing to do with beheadings, rapes, torture, slavery and the leading of totalitarian conquests on bloody battlefields. In none of the major world faiths are religious scholars linked with the vile behaviors associated with terrorism — except Islam. Why?
Because Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was both the leading teacher of Islam, as its prophet, and the preeminent exponent of violent conquest (jihad), as the ruthless leader of its armies. Since in the Qur’an Allah highlights Muhammad as an Uswa hasana (excellent example) to be followed by all who wish to curry divine favor, and since Islam honors him with the title al-Insan al-Kamil (which translates roughly as “the perfect man”), Muslims strive to shape their lives according to his model.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took this to heart, and became a scholar-terrorist in the mould of his hero. There is no question that in the eyes of the Islamic world he was a true religious scholar — he obtained his B.A., Masters degree and Ph.D. in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.
Few Muslims have studied their religion with the rigor and verve evidenced by al-Baghdadi. There is also no question that this man pursued jihad and ran a massive jihadi terror group strictly according to the example of Muhammad as found in the Qur’an, Hadith traditions, early Muslim biographies of the prophet, and the rulings of official Islamic law, the Shari’a. One might say he was the paragon of Islamic scholar-terrorists, a chip off the prophetic block.
The Post obituary described al-Baghdadi’s influence thusly: ” During his tenure, the Islamic State would come to mirror its leader: a messianic figure drawn to the harshest interpretations of Islamic texts and seized with the conviction that all dissenters should be put to death. But this is only a superficial analysis. The fact is that ISIS came to mirror its leader in all its gory, religiously-inspired evil, only because its leader was mirroring the founder of Islam, who among other depravities commanded infidels to be beheaded, approved and participated in the enslavement of others, authorized his marauders to rape captive women, ordered the assassination of foes whose mockery got under his skin, threatened recalcitrant soldiers with eternal hellfire if they refused jihad assignments, declared proudly, “I have been made victorious through terror,” and so much more.
The Washington Post wanted to hide these realities from its audience by originally trying to portray Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a harmless “religious scholar”, no doubt assuming its readers would supply a Westernized mental stereotype. The blowback, however, was so fierce that they were forced to acknowledge the obscene truth that this Islamic scholar was also the murderous, salacious, uber-iniquitous leader of ISIS, the terrorist horde modeled on the life and teachings of the Arabian prophet Muhammad.
In calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “an austere religious scholar” as well as “extremist leader of [the] Islamic State”, the Washington Post implicitly acknowledges that the terrorist organization in question was firmly guided by one immersed to the highest degree in the heart of Islamic thought. As such, one is led to conclude by the successive titles of al-Baghdadi’s obituary that the Washington Post seems to have discovered that Islam is not after all a religion of peace. Would it be too much to hope that their future reporting on Islam will be objective and truthful in pointing out the jihadi, supremacist elements woven into the core of Islamic thought? Probably. But hope springs eternal.