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Religious Extremism in America

Since the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, many high-ranking leaders of the religious right in America have been quite vocal attacking Islam, the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad in the public square. With a few exceptions, American columnists, intellectuals and political leaders have encouraged this hate campaign with their silence.

For example, Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son and successor who participated in the president’s inauguration, declared Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.”

And in a recent appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” program, Christian Coalition founder and television evangelist Pat Robertson, attacked Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. About Muhammad, Robertson said: “This man was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic. He was a robber and a brigand. And to say that these terrorists distort Islam, they’re carrying out Islam. I mean, this man [Muhammad] was a killer. And to think that this is a peaceful religion is fraudulent.” Robertson also called Islam “a monumental scam.”

In addition, on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” the Rev. Jerry Falwell attacked Prophet Muhammad as a “terrorist.” Last summer, Falwell defended Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Vines who declared at the denomination’s convention wherein President Bush spoke via satellite, that Muhammad was a “demon-possessed pedophile” and that Islam teaches the destruction of all non-Muslims.

These are not the words of the KKK or some outcast group. These are influential leaders within America that share a close relationship with the President, his administration and many Republican leaders. Neither the Bush Administration nor any Republican leader has condemned their attacks or disassociated themselves from these extremists.

While CBS and Fox News are free to invite people to raise arguments or challenges to Islam, they have not shown fairness or balance by not inviting Muslim Scholars to respond to these attacks.

If America is intolerant to religious extremism, one would hear within the public square criticism of extremists of all faiths. However, we only hear Muslim extremists being condemned.

To illustrate my point, for the past year we have seen a deluge of articles, opinion pieces, and reports on Muslim clerics teaching hatred toward Christianity and Judaism and silence within the mainstream press to malicious attacks against Islam.

For example, Thomas Friedman one of the most influential columnists in America, reminded us over and over again that the 19 Muslim men who attacked the WTC and Pentagon came from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In a tireless manner, he wrote extensively on the “madrassas”, or schools, that teach Muslims to hate non Muslims. He forgot the hundreds of thousands of American Jews who go settle in Israel and are taught that Arabs are “vermin,” “snakes,” or “evil.” Alan Goodman was an American Jewish citizen who went to the Al Aqsa compound and started shooting at worshippers. Baruch Goldstein, another American Jewish citizen, opened fire on Muslim worshippers kneeling in prayer within the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994, killing 29 instantly and wounding dozens.

There is no shrine honoring bin Laden in Saudi Arabia, but there is a shrine honoring Goldstein in an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank, where thousands come annually to honor his “martyrdom”, even from America.

Actually, these Jewish settlers have a strong political and religious relationship with the Christian right leaders who are bashing Islam ad nauseaum.

One has to ask: where is Friedman’s pen regarding the seminaries within America that produced Goldstein, Goodman and the nefarious armed Jewish settlers who believe they have a God-given right to steal Arab land by force? Where are Friedman’s thought-provoking articles regarding Graham, Falwell, and Robertson’s attacks against Islam and their alliances with the Bush administration?

As a Muslim convinced of my faith, I don’t want people to be afraid to question Islam, raise arguments or questions about the Qur’an or Prophet Muhammad. However, I question the platform where we are viciously attacked and our voices are silenced or distorted.

America is a free county, however, there is a “Do Not Enter” sign for Muslims who want to enter the public square and respond to these vitriolic attacks.

When Muslims are given the chance, they can easily show that these attacks against Islam are absolutely false and that those who are attacking Islam are doing so in the spirit of hatred, not in the spirit of Jesus, Moses or any prophet of God.

Let the Muslims enter the public square. It is the Muslims turn to take the mike and respond to these attacks. Americans can listen to the counterpoint and decide on the true character of Prophet Muhammad.

FEDWA WAZWAZ, of Crystal, Minnesota, is the communications director for the Islamic Resource Group in Minnesota.

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