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Religious Tolerance logo


2010-OCT-03: Discussion of the topic:
"Should Americans fear Islam?" on ABC's This Week

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During the 2010-OCT-03 episode of This Week, Christiane Anampour discussed this topic with a group representing a diversity of opinions: 1

  • Peter Gadiel's son died during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. He said:
    "Well, I'd like nothing better than to say that I was not afraid of Islam. I'd like nothing better than to say to my Muslim friends and fellow citizens, welcome to America, I'm glad you're here, make yourself at home. But the fact is that we have too many history of -- of Muslim terror attacks and many of them so-called homegrown, second generation. And I think to ignore that threat is to ignore the -- the history of Islam."
  • Donna Marsh O'Connor lost a daughter and the daughter's unborn fetus in the 9/11 attack. She said:
    "I think Americans should fear criminal behavior. I think we should do the best we can to control criminal behavior. But I can't raise my two remaining sons to fear the people who live next door to them. That is not what my grandparents came to America to escape you know, we are a group of 9/11 family members. I know a lot of family members are here. We share that pain and, you know, I think the unfortunate piece of this is that we don't agree on this."
  • Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, a division of the evangelical Christian Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said:
    "First, Christiane, I understand what the Muslims want to do in America. They want to build as many mosques and cultural centers as they possibly can so they can convert as many Americans as they can to Islam. I understand that. And ... I understand what they're doing. And I just don't have the -- the freedom to do this in most Muslim countries. We can't have a church. We're not able to build synagogues. It's -- it's forbidden. But let me just say something about Islam. I -- I love the Muslim people. But I have great difficulty with the -- with the religion, especially with Sharia law and what it does for women -- toward women, toward non-believers, the violence that is given in -- under Sharia law.
    It is unclear whether Graham advocates that Saudi Arabia and other predominately Muslim countries that do not allow freedom of religious expression should adopt the policies of religious freedom seen in the U.S., or whether the U.S. should abandon its religious heritage and become like these Muslim countries by clamping down on religious freedom for minority faiths.

  • Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, and the author of "The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran," "Stealth Jihad," and The Truth about Muhammad" said:
    "Well, Islamic jihadis ... consistently explain and justify their actions and try to make recruits among peaceful Muslims by pointing to texts of the Qur'an, the actions of Muhammad and the teachings of Islamic law. And so this is something that moderate and peaceful Muslims have to confront. But instead, they always just displace responsibility and blame the people who are calling attention to these things. And ... then, of course, you have even peaceful Muslims like the Imam Rauf, advocating for Sharia, which does deny equality of rights to women. It does deny the freedom of speech, even cultural restrictions on the freedom of speech in his book, "What's Right with Islam." And, you know, you talk about that Islam doesn't allow for wife beating. Well, it's in the Qur'an---- to beat your wife. And also, there's a television show in Saudi Arabia where they discuss the right implements to beat your wife with."
    It is unclear how the Qur'an's reference to wife beating and the Saudi Arabian' TV program differs in principle from the Old Testament's instructions to beat one's children with a rod, and Focus on the Family's description of how specific to use corporal punishment on your children starting at age 18 months of age.

    The point here is that a believer has options. They can read the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and/or Islam (the Torah, Holy Bible and Qur'an) and:

    • Simply ignore what they regard as violent, unjust, genocidal, and immoral passages as the writings of people who lived in a pre-scientific, tribal, violent society, or

    • View what they feel are evil passages, and interpret them metaphorically, or

    • View what they feel are evil passages as material that was intended for an earlier era, but is not pertinent today. or

    • Read what others regard as violent, unjust, and immoral passages, accept them as truth, and use them to pattern their life after.

    • etc.

  • Daisy Khan of the American Society for Muslim Advancement said:
    "Well, let me assure all Americans that the vast majority of Muslims around the world and in the United States -- are living a peaceful life. We are law-abiding citizens. We have people in the armed forces. My own niece, who's in her early 20s, went to Iraq for two years and just came back from there -- young, Arab-American, born in this country, served the nation to keep it secure. We have 1,000 police officers just in the New York Police Department keeping the city secure."
  • Azar Nafisi is an intellectual, a writer, who fled persecution in Iran and came to America seeking freedom. He said:
    "I came here to America because I expected that that image which those people had imposed on us [in Iran] would not be imposed on us again. And look at my surprise. From both sides of the aisle, what you hear is that there is one Islam. If we think there is only one Islam, then we have to take sides. Either it's evil or it's good. But there are as many interpretations of Islam as there are Muslims.
  • Amanpour asked Reza Aslan, a writer and author of "The Daily Beast" whether American Muslims are attempting to bring Sharia law to the U.S. He replied:
    "No, not a single shred whatsoever. I think somebody needs to remind Franklin Graham that we don't judge our values in the United States by comparing them to what the Saudis do. This is a common refrain that you hear from a lot of anti-Muslim activists in the United States, including Robert Spencer, that, well, if, in Saudi Arabia, you can't have a church, then, therefore, in the United States, you shouldn't be allowed to have mosques. This is an appalling and laughable argument."
    To which Franklin Graham responded:
    "You know we can have an argument -- but I'm not here to argue. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and that no man comes to the father in heaven except through him. I don't believe in Islam. I don't believe a word of it. I do respect their right to ... believe whatever they want to believe. My opinions are not based on hearsay. My opinions are based on 50 years of working in Middle Eastern countries. I'm 58. I was -- eight years old when I made my first trip to Egypt. And I've been to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia. I've worked in these countries. But I disagree, Christiane, with ... the Sharia law, because they do stone women. They do imprison. ... I've worked in the Sudan, where they've burned over a thousand churches -- a thousand."
    To which Reza Aslan responded:
    "Who is they? I mean Azar Nafisi said something very important. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It is unquestionably the most diverse, the most eclectic religion in the history of the world. This concept of just using this word "they" to describe one-and-a-half billion people is actually the definition of bigotry."
  • At this point, the discussion degenerated badly.

  • Imam Osama Bahloul of Tennessee said:
    "My point is ... under the name of the Koran. ... Please sir, we have some people, Christians, Muslims, Jewish and other, who misuse the holy books. It's understandable. ... I do not deny this. But I'm saying something the extreme majority of the Muslims, they have a proper understanding about this religion ... and referring to your point, I agree with you. And am not expecting for everyone to become Muslim, as well.
  • Amanpour asked Daisy Khan "where are the voice of the [Muslim] moderates speaking up?"

  • Daisy Khan replied:
    "Well, the moderates are speaking out. I happen to be one of them. I was devastated by the event of 9/11 and I had to quit my corporate career -- a lucrative corporate career to ensure that we would create a counter-momentum against extremism so that another 9/11 does not ever happen again. ... this particular [Islamic] center [in New York City] will create a counter-momentum against extremism, because it will amplify the voices of moderate Muslims, which have gotten drowned out over the years by the extremists. ... The extremists did not only hijack the planes, they hijacked an entire religion."
  • Amanpour introduced Anjem Choudary in London, England. He is an extremist who believes in the eventual domination of the world by Islam and Sharia Law. He said:
    "Islam has a solution for all of the problems that mankind faces. If you want to live at peace with Muslims, we are quite willing to live at peace with you. But let us remember that history did not begin on 9/11. Before 9/11, the Americans -- the American government bombed Sudan and Afghanistan. They were supporting the pirate state of Israel. So 9/11 was a reaction. You know, I think that we need to get away from the stereotyping. And this idea that you have moderate Muslims and you have radical Muslims, you know, it's complete nonsense. A Muslim is the one who submits to the command of the creator. If he submits, he is a practicing Muslim. If he is not, then he should be practicing."
  • To which Daisy Khan interjected:
    "I have to disagree with him, because Islam is a religion of pluralism that embraces all religions and it also embraces different interpretations. This is why we have so many schools of thought. What Anjem is talking about is an exclusivist view of Islam, which is my way or the highway. And my interpretation is the only interpretation.
  • At this point, Choudary attacked Ms. Khan, concluding that she is not a practicing Muslim because she is not wearing a hijab.

  • The rest of the debate is available on the ABC This Week website. 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. " ' This Week' Transcript: Holy War: Should Americans Fear Islam?," ABC, 2010-OCT-03, at:
  2. Ibid, Section 2 at:

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-OCT-05
Latest update: 2010-OCT-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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