Our last three presidents have all stated that radical Islam is not real Islam, but a lifelong Muslim, raised in the Middle East and holding a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, categorically disagrees. Whom should we believe?

Speaking to the U.N. in September, President Obama stated with regard to ISIL (or ISIS, the so-called “Islamic State”) that, “No God condones this terror.” He added, “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.”

ISIL is not Islamic? Then what is it?

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, with reference to Obama’s similar comment made earlier in September, explained that, “In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children ‘a terrible perversion of Islam.’ George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents ‘violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.'”

Pipes continued, “Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaida before it, is 100 percent Islamic.”

Is Pipes correct? After all, he studied in Egypt and learned Arabic and spent time in the Islamic world of West Africa. Yet Pipes is a not a Muslim, so his opinion, though highly respected in many academic circles, is that of a Westerner.

But what about a practicing Muslim who was raised and educated in the Islamic world, even reportedly earning a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad? Perhaps the testimony of such a person should be taken seriously?

I’m speaking of none other than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. (Yes, al-Baghdadi, Ph.D., if the reports are true.) Does he understand Islam?

It is true, of course, that President Obama spent some of his childhood in Indonesia, but that country is one of the more moderate Islamic countries (although the largest), and I can’t imagine a single Islamic scholar considering Obama an authority on Islam.

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On the other hand, despite his murderous extremism, al-Baghdadi can make a real claim to being an authentic Muslim. In fact, he makes a real claim to carrying out his barbarism in the name and spirit of Islam.

As pointed out by a former devout Muslim from Morocco, whose father is an imam, ISIS is thoroughly Islamic and speaks for Islam. (This former Muslim, now a Christian, goes by the name of Bro. Rachid and does not divulge his full identity for security purposes. He is currently in the middle of earning a Master’s degree on terrorism.)

Bro. Rachid notes that al-Baghdadi was a preacher in a local Iraqi mosque, that all ISIS’ members are Muslims who are coming from different nations with only their faith in common. They follow Muhammad’s example in detail (wearing beards but no mustache, wearing his same traditional garb and even wearing their watches on their right hands to distinguish themselves from the infidels).

They establish Shariah law in every area they conquer. They have sought to re-establish the caliphate – central to Sunni Islam – and they follow Muhammad’s personal example of beheading their victims, not to mention following this specific injunction in the Quran (47:4): “So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens.”

As for slaughtering prisoners of war, Sura 8:67 in the Quran is used to justify this practice: “It is not for a prophet to have captives [of war] until he inflicts a massacre [upon Allah’s enemies] in the land.” This could include other Muslims who were deemed to be apostate.

As for kidnapping women of other faiths and taking them as wives (after killing their husbands, fathers, or brothers), Muhammad’s personal example would justify this as well. (See, for example, the story of his wife Safiya bint Huyayy.)

And on and on it goes, with Islamic radicals finding support for their actions in their sacred texts, in Islamic history (especially in the 13th century) and in the life of Muhammad. Surely al-Baghdadi is quite familiar with all this and exploits it in his preaching.

As for slaughtering in cold blood the American and British hostages, they could easily justify this as well by claiming that America and England have attacked Muslim lands and slaughtered millions of their people; hence these are attacks of retaliation.

For devout Muslims, this is all part of jihad, holy war.

To be clear, there are millions of other Muslims who are repulsed by ISIS’ actions, and there are Islamic scholars who have put forth other interpretations of these Islamic texts and traditions.

But to claim that ISIS is not Islamic is to bury one’s head in the very sand now red with the blood of the beheaded.

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