The lines have already been drawn: Jews and Christians are on one side and Muslims on the other.
The final verdict has already been given: Jesus offered a model of peace and love, so did Moses but Muhammad offered a model of violence. He was a terrorist. The truth has already been spoken: Muhammad does not represent Islam.
The final prophecy has already been revealed: the Major battles will come, blood will be up to the backs of horses (or tanks) and two-thirds of the Jews will be killed, while the remaining third will convert to Christianity.
And the pledge of allegiance has been changed: every time the President of the United States shows the earliest indication of holding off his support to the state of Israel, he will be subject to pressure by over seventy-million of the Christian right. Ariel Sharon should rest assured that Mr. Bush will always do the right thing. There is nothing called Palestine. Palestinians should go to some other country.
These are some of the points propagated by Jerry Falwell that Mr. Bob Simon of CBS astutely exposed on the 60 minutes show on October 6, 2002. Ironically, on the same show came Mr. Abraham Foxman, President of the Anti Defamation League, a prestigious Jewish organization, to lend the support of his community to the Christian right as well as to celebrate the support Israel is getting from extremist right wing groups, in spite of their leaders; impossible to swallow anti-Semitic overtones.
I don't think that these points warrant analysis as they speak for themselves. Bigotry does not need to be analyzed; it only needs to be exposed. There are several issues however, that deserve public awareness and debate.
What was said by Jerry Falwell raises questions about the level of discourse in America. Since the sixties, we the people succeeded in setting a national standard for expressing our views. We don't speak anti-Semitism in public, we are careful about racial, ethnic and religious jokes and we show sensitivity to what is sacred and important to others.
We don't feel that politeness in public discourse contradicts freedom of speech. As a matter of fact, it makes our rhetoric more mature and productive. To break this pattern with Muslims, especially with false statements is not only to hurt Muslims and the figures they hold in the highest esteem but also to damage the standard set for our national social discourse.
The Bin Ladenization of the discourse is another important issue we need to be aware of. The nadir of terrifying statements were exemplified by the following: Islam is an evil religion as was said by several ministers in the Southern Baptist conference recently; Mohammed is a terrorist as claimed by Jerry Falwell and Jews have to convert to Christianity as was exhorted by the founder of the moral majority. These statements clearly indicate the low nature of discourse that many of the clergy is engaged in.
This logic has led them to assert that we are good and they are evil. Good should prevail and evil ought to vanish. If we allow this logic to be widely projected, accepted and sometimes sanctioned and adopted by the national leadership, we are in fact putting a nail in the coffin of our democracy.
Ironically this logic has become prevalent after 9/11. This is no less than cruelty that is incompatible with faith in God. It is awfully cruel to exploit the pain and anxiety of our traumatized nation, to further a political agenda or to achieve power.
We must ask the question: Where does the Bush administration stand on the issue of these issues? Mr. Falwell has made it clear that he has enough clout to pressure the President on his administration's policies towards Israel. In a democracy this may be understandable. However, we elect our President to represent all Americans, neither the most vocal nor the most organized.
When the issue crosses the line from free speech to hate speech, our President should freely speak against hate, because the alternative will ultimately lead to discord at a time when we need to galvanize the nation in solidarity to deal with the eminent challenges we face in the post 9/11.
The silence of the Administration should not prevent people of faith from speaking up their conscious and their mind. They don't have to denounce or condemn people, but they must speak up. They may support, oppose, or analyze, but they should not refrain from saying what they consider the truth. There is a saying in Islam: The one who is silent when truth ought to be spoken is like a mute devil.
Dr. Maher Hathout is the Senior Advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the spokesperson of the Islamic Center of Southern California
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