Although President Bush has characterized "Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others", increasingly a large number of foreign policy hawks have joined the religious conservatives in taking issue with this characterization.
Increasingly, they are engaged in advocating a civilization clash that targets Muslims in conflict with the West, led by the United States.
Thus, with the current war cries against Iraq growing louder, the stage is being set for campaigns against Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Libya followed by other Muslim countries in their turn.
Kenneth Adelman, who serves on the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, said this about Islam: "The more you examine the religion, the more militaristic it seems. After all, its founder, Mohammed, was a warrior, not a peace advocate like Jesus."
Another member of this board, Eliot Cohen writing in a Wall Street Journal editorial argued that the enemy of the U.S. is not terrorism "but militant Islam." Paul Weyrich, who has influence in the White House, recently wrote that he is concerned about President Bush's "constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance just like Judaism or Christianity. It is neither."
These comments follow those of conservative Christian leaders such as Jerry Vines, a former Southern Baptist president and evangelist Franklin Graham, who early on stigmatized Islam.
Then, although he later apologized, Jerry Falwell appearing on CBS "60 Minutes" reviled the Prophet of Islam as a "Terrorist."
And the unapologetic televangelist Pat Robertson continues to cast aspersions on Islam, Muslims and the Prophet of Islam.
Thus Ibrahim Hooper, a representative of the Council on American and Islamic Relations, an American Muslim advocacy group, commented, "These right wingers are trying to set up a civilization conflict with all their might in the same way as Osama bin Laden. We're trying our darnedest to prevent it, but every day it's looking more and more like it's heading in that direction."
First, it is important not to confuse a religion with the actions of certain persons. Otherwise, one could equate genocide committed by Hitler and the Nazis, or Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs, with Christianity.
Islam espouses the same principles of peace, love and tolerance as Christianity. To garner respect for the Prophet, I would refer them to the recent PBS documentary, "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet", co-produced by Michel Wolfe and Alexander Kronemer.
Second, any talk of violence without due attention to its underlying causes, is counterproductive.
Among others, Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada linked the September 11 terrorist attacks to the attitude of the West - particularly, the way the U.S. "flexes its muscle" and imposes its "values" around the globe.
And the former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter is troubled by this new belligerent "face of America."
The current growth of anti-Americanism is not restricted to the Muslim countries, but is also widespread in Europe because it considers the U.S. as arrogant and unilateralist as a superpower.
Most European governments are opposed to war on Iraq, and large street protests are common occurrence in their countries.
A British field marshal commented that an attack on Iraq is likely to "add petrol to the fire."
The FBI and CIA reports also indicate that this attack will further inflame the Middle East and the Muslim world.
The neo-conservatives are pursuing a unidirectional monologue, basing the U.S. foreign policy on their imperialist designs. This is dangerous, because it is coercive and thus bound to create more conflicts.
They must acknowledge that this world is composed of diverse entities, each with its own distinct tradition, values, needs and interests.
Therefore, the prevalent neocolonialist attitude towards the world's Muslims must be replaced with equity and fairness.
And, through cross-cultural dialog and open, free exchange of ideas, it must create an environment conducive to the peaceful coexistence and betterment of humankind as a whole.
Siraj Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and free-lance journalist.
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