Daniel Pipes has recently disparaged “Sheikh Obama” for questionable remarks about Islam:
"Religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam." Here, Obama follows his predecessor in presenting himself as an interpreter of Islam. I ridiculed "Imam Bush" for telling Muslims about true Islam and its distortion, and now I must ridicule "Sheikh Obama" for the same. He's a politician, not a theologian. He's now a Christian, not a Muslim. He should steer completely clear from the topic of who are good or bad Muslims. (December 10, 2009)-- http://www.danielpipes.org
In his comments, Pipes has laid a finger on a peculiarly American penchant for policing the consciences of others from outside.
A commentator on Pipes’ blog charges that Obama is, in fact, a Shi’ite Muslim practicing Taqiyya, or presenting himself as something else to a hostile audience. More likely, Mr. Obama knows next to nothing about the merits of either side of the struggle for the early Islamic Caliphate that gave rise to divisions between Sunni, Shi’ah, and Ibadi. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s praise for Islam and appeals to his own Muslim heritage while speaking to the assembled delegates of the Islamic world in Cairo following his protestations of being a Christian during the U.S. presidential campaign suggest that Mr. Obama’s religious identity is tailored to the community he wishes to persuade and influence; that he is a politician who sees all religions as equally useful rather than a believer in the truth of any one of them.
But is it not presumptuous for either Mr. Bush or Mr. Obama to claim to fathom all the intricacies of the Islamic doctrine of jihad, or when points of ethics shared by Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are to trump the call to jihad? At best, both recent U.S. presidents possess only a rudimentary knowledge of Islamic doctrine.
Both, however, are claiming the post-enlightenment liberal’s presumption to stand in judgment over all prior traditions, while denying the right of others to challenge his own presuppositions about reason, justice, and the nature of reality.
Many an American liberal who cannot tell whether the book of Job is in the Old or New Testament, prides himself on his disparagement of “organized religion”, and has not darkened the door of a house of worship in years dares to tell Evangelicals who oppose abortion or homosexual marriage that they are “un-Christian”. Nancy Pelosi has presumed to lecture the Pope on how the encyclicals of his predecessors are somehow cryptically pro-abortion; even though it is clear even to God-bless-King-Billy Presbyterians that the Pope, not the U.S. Speaker of the House, is the ultimate interpreter of Roman Catholic doctrine.
Perhaps such attitudes did much to drive both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics away from the Democratic Party—the political home of many of the most outspoken American militant godless--for which their grandparents voted in droves. It is also likely that such attitudes, which expects the Islamic world, with its very different set of values and historical experience, to share a set of core ethical principles with secularized Americans, will only exacerbate America’s relations with that quarter of the world.