In a piece published by the Huffington Post, Flemming Rose, a senior fellow with the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, writes about his encounter with assistant to the president and chief strategist in the President Donald Trump administration Steve Bannon.
The exchange took place in May 2016, and at the time, Bannon served as the chief executive of Breitbart News. Now, he's the only political adviser to a president “in recent memory” Rose writes, to have snatched a seat on the National Security Council.
While the account on how both men got to meet is interesting on its own, it's what Rose says about Bannon's comments on Islam that caught the media's attention — and for a good reason. As a man who championed independent media, Bannon seems to refer to the same tactics used by mainstream outlets, whose journalists are often guilty of generalizing an entire audience, whether due to their skin color, religion, or social status.
During their exchange, Rose explains Bannon learned the Cato scholar felt differently about Islamic terrorism, which prompted the then-Breibart editor to “burst so immediately into a passionate assault on [Rose's] opposing views.”
Without any formalities, Rose continues, Bannon defended the belief that “violence and war can have a cleansing effect,” making the need for Trump to “tear things and rebuild them from scratch” a necessity in his view.
Adding he had lost faith in Europe as a go-to place for secularism, Bannon contended that the Muslim immigrants who had fled to the West had “eroded traditional Christian values,” damaging the very foundation of the Western civilization. To Trump's political adviser, peaceful means will never stop “the power of Islam,” Rose writes, adding that the West and Islam are fighting a war for survival.
In Rose's point of view, the war has nothing to do with Islam. Instead, he contends, “violent Islamists” are the problem. After all, they seek to undermine the “secular democracy,” fighting a war with nonviolent Islamists as a result. Comments that are on par with the reality of Muslims around the Middle East who remain the number one victims of terrorism in the world.
Also, Rose adds, those who subscribe to Islam and who are fighting the radical elements at war with the West are much like the Marxists “of a social democratic mold” who defended the democratic form of government from totalitarian followers of Soviet Marxism-Leninism. If we must learn from history, Rose told Bannon, we must also give Muslims who defend democracy a chance to engage in this battle.
According to Rose, Bannon didn't agree with his peaceful demeanor, adding that he “hoped we can do it [Rose's] way.” Nevertheless, Trump's political adviser added, he wasn't sure if that could be done.
While Bannon appears pessimistic, his comments also target all members of a religious group indiscriminately, an issue many right-leaning pundits and scholars rightly bring up whenever news outlets target all Christians over the actions of a few.
If Bannon is an honest conservative, whose concerns lie with the plight of the individual against the oppression of a collectivist narrative, he should know better. Our war isn't against Islam. Instead, we are fighting the consequences of decades-long policies that have failed to bring peace to the Middle East. But will he ever admit to that much?
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters