Unchecked falsehood multiplies mendacity and quickly becomes an acceptable truth.
One persistent falsehood is that Islam is by definition a violent religion. Call it the Franklin Graham Falsehood.
Remember that Graham defined Islam as “a very violent religion.” He said it was a wife-beating and child-killing religion.
When denied an opportunity to speak at the Pentagon at a National Day of Prayer event because of his Muslim-bashing record, he claimed that the revocation of his invitation was a “slap at all evangelical Christians.” He said his religious rights were being restricted. He warned Christians of a “coming” persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ.
Graham told Newsweek: “I think yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ as you’re flying jet airplanes through buildings and killing 3,000 Americans – that was evil and it was wicked. And I’ve not heard one Islamic leader around the world stand up and say that was a terrible thing … If Catholics had flown into these buildings in the name of Catholicism, the pope would have been on TV that night denouncing them, saying this was wrong and what they did was sin.”
Graham apparently wasn’t listening after 9/11 and hasn’t done any basic research.
He has contributed to the second falsehood, the conjoined twin: Islamic leaders never condemn Muslim-initiated violence or denounce Islamic threats.
Simply put, a popular narrative is that Islam is a violent religion and its leaders don’t denounce violence.
Since “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” to cite a quote attributed to Mark Twain, I think I am morally obligated to share a press release received last week from Mohamed Elsanousi, director of community outreach for the Islamic Society of North America.
Full disclosure: Elsanousi is my friend.
“The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) vigorously condemns Anwar Al-Awlaki’s latest video message of violence that reportedly urges attacks on America,” read the press release. “Such calls to perpetrate violent acts find no ground in Islamic teachings. Renowned Muslim American scholars have rejected Al-Awlaki’s extremist views which are based on lack of proper traditional Islamic training and discipline, a prerequisite for issuing Islamic opinions.”
Al-Awlaki is an American-born cleric, thought to be operating in Yemen, who said in a video, “Oh, America, if you transgress against us, we will transgress against you, and you keep killing our people, we will kill your people.”
He claimed that Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people in his rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, was “one of my students.”
The press release noted that in 2005 ISNA issued an Islamic religious ruling, a fatwa, against terrorism.
ISNA’s fatwa said: “Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilian life and property through suicide bombings or any other method is haram – or forbidden – and those who commit such barbaric acts are criminals, not ‘martyrs.'”
Citing the teachings found in the Quran and Sunnah, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, the ISNA press release made two additional points:
· “It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.”
· “It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.”
The press statement called Muslim parents and leaders to warn other Muslims about the “deviant teachings of self proclaimed scholars like Al-Awlaki.”
A key American Islamic organization clearly condemns terrorism and violence against noncombatants or innocent civilians.
In the first video, Imam Mohammed Magid referred to “self-appointed scholars” who used the Internet to call for violence. Magid, an interviewee in our documentary “Different Books, Common Word,” accused such preachers of cutting and pasting the Quran to misuse Islamic teachings. He said Islam was a religion of peace and community building.
Magid, vice president of ISNA, and other ISNA leaders are not the only American Muslims who denounce terrorism.
After the Nidal Hasan shootings, the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military issued a statement that read in part: “In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, it is more important than ever that we not make the same scapegoating and broad stroke mistakes that were evident in the aftermath of previous tragedies. The Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military urges the media, government officials and all of our fellow Americans to recognize that the actions of Hasan are those of a deranged gunman, and are in no way representative of the wider Arab American or American Muslim community.”
Evidence is abundant that Muslim leaders have denounced terrorists and called for peace.
President George Bush noted in his speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2001 the good and peaceful teachings of Islam. He said, “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” He expressed appreciation for the prayers of sympathy at a mosque in Cairo.
Despite Bush’s many statements of good will about Islam and the statements by goodwill Muslim leaders against terrorists, many Americans favor falsehood.
It is one of the powerful narratives in our culture in large measure because some Christians validate it.
Challenging such a negative narrative is one reason why we are partially screening our documentary “Different Books, Common Word” at a luncheon during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. We think that goodwill Baptists are the very ones to replace the negative narratives with positive narratives.
I hope you will join us – at our luncheon and in our attempt to advance the common good.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.