An American Muslim leader called on mainstream religious and political leaders to repudiate remarks by televangelist Pat Robertson, who claimed the goal of Islam is world domination.
“The failure by mainstream religious and political leaders to challenge Mr. Robertson’s Islamophobic remarks will send the false message to Muslims worldwide that the majority of Americans agree with his hate-filled views,” Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement.
“The constant, and largely unchallenged, drumbeat of anti-Muslim rhetoric is poisoning the public’s attitude toward ordinary American Muslims,” the CAIR leader went on to say, citing two recent polls showing growing percentages of Americans hold anti-Muslim views.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll last week found 33 percent of Americans believe that mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims, and 58 percent said there are more violent extremists within Islam than in other religions.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told the Washington Post he isn’t surprised by the poll results, because politicians, media commentators and others have demonized the Arab world since 2001.
An example, he said, is attempts in Congress to block the Bush administration’s attempt to hire an Arab company to manage operations at six of the nation’s ports.
“The intensity has not abated and remains a vein that’s very near the surface, ready to be tapped at any moment,” Zogby said. “Members of Congress have been exploiting this over the ports issue. Radio commentators have been talking about it nonstop.”
A separate study by CAIR found that about one in four Americans believe Islam is a religion of hatred and violence. One fourth (26 percent) responded with a negative comment–like “violence,” “hatred,” “terrorists,” or “towel heads” when asked an open-ended question about what is the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “Muslim.” About half gave neutral comments, and 6 percent had positive comments.
Media Matters for America transcribed Robertson’s comments from the March 13 broadcast of CBN’s “The 700 Club” as follows: “Imagine one cartoon, one cartoon showing Mohammad with a turban with a missile out of it. I mean, we have stuff like that, that is vastly worse against our politicians all the time. It’s part of free expression.
“The fact that this elicited this incredible outpouring of rage just shows the kind of people we’re dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it’s motivated by demonic power; it is satanic; and it’s time we recognize what we are dealing with.
“But, political correctness will not face one religious ideology with the strength of another because they don’t have the strength of another. And, so, they’re caving in before this vicious assault, and the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination.
“These people are saying it over there in Europe–world domination. ‘We’re going to take over Europe. We’re going to take over England. We’re going to take over Denmark. We’re going to take over France. That’s their goal!
“And, why don’t we wake up to the fact of who we’re dealing with? And, by the way, Islam is not a religion of peace.”
A Baptist ethicist criticized Robertson.
“The Sermon on the Mount is crystal clear about peacemaking, loving enemies, doing good to others, striving after God’s kingdom and practicing discernment,” said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “Regrettably, fundamentalist Christians ignore the Sermon on the Mount because it is not a manual for warmaking which is at the heart of Christian crusades.”
Awad also criticized comments in Tuesday’s New York Sun by columnist Daniel Pipes, a frequent critic of Islam, saying all Muslims must be considered “potential killers,” because “normal-appearing” Muslims might “suddenly erupt in an homicidal rage.”
Those comments prompted readers of one anti-Muslim Web site to respond: “Until the leadership of the West accepts ‘reality’ that Islam is a totalitarian regime that must be exterminated (if we are to live free) then we will continue to get the atrocity of the day…. Is genocide in the name of freedom wrong or just the law of nature red in tooth and claw?”
“Islamophobic rhetoric inevitably translates into acts of bias, discrimination and even violence against Muslims,” Awad said. He cited recent bombings at an Ohio mosque, the sentencing of a New York man for e-mailed death threats targeting Michigan Muslims and hate attacks on Muslim students at a Canadian University.
While Parham said he empathizes with Awad’s frustration over Robertson’s comments, it is incorrect to say that mainstream religious and political leaders have been silent about Robertson and his allies. He said the Nashville-based BCE has a clear record of “stepping up often to speak against demonizing Muslims and to speak for following the Sermon on the Mount.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, Parham wrote a column that said in part, “When some quickly denounce Muslims and demonize them, we must avoid the false witness that universalizes harmful attributes to those of different religions.”
Other mainline American Christians, Parham said, have also “distanced themselves from Christian fundamentalists.” President Bush has “rightly refused to identify Islam as a religion of hate and has spoken against such attitudes,” he added.
“Nevertheless, the Christian community needs to hear the deep concern and perception within the Islamic and Arab communities about American Christianity,” Parham said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.