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A group of Fundamentalist Christian religious leaders and columnists verbally criticized Islam in the aftermath to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Responses to these criticisms are described below:

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Reaction from American Muslims:

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) voiced objections to recent attacks by Fundamentalist Christian leaders against Islam. He said: "We would call on elected leaders and religious leaders to repudiate these kinds of comments. Time and again we see attacks on Islam go unchallenged....We would call on President Bush to specifically repudiate these attacks. Saying that Islam is a religion of peace is not enough. These people respect President Bush and if he said: 'Knock it off, you're setting up a civilizational conflict, which does nobody any good,' they would listen."

Referring to a comment in 2002-OCT in which Jerry Falwell called the prophet Mohammed a "terrorist," Hooper said: "It does incredible damage to America's image in the Muslim world just at a time when we need allies in the war on terrorism."

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Reaction from a Washington Post columnist:

In a column on 2002-DEC-2, Richard Cohen said, in part:

"Back in [2002] October the Rev. Jerry Falwell called Muhammad, the founder of Islam, a terrorist. This set off riots in India and may have contributed to the good showing of religious parties in the Pakistani election....the Rev. Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition...has conferred on Islam in general the distinction of being worse than Hitler. 'Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse,' Robertson said recently. And rather than apologize or retract in the manner of Falwell, Robertson went on ABC's 'This Week' and repeated it all to George Stephanopoulos....Jews familiar with history might note that from Spain to Baghdad, it was the Islamic world that offered the Jews of the Middle Ages a fair degree of toleration -- not the Christian West....To sweepingly liken a thousand-year religion of a billion people to the ultimate in modern evil -- Hitler -- is reckless, ahistorical and just plain insulting....Bush is in somewhat the same position as certain political leaders in the Muslim world. He too is finding it awkward to deal with crackpot religious leaders....But just as I and others have held certain Islamic regimes -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. -- responsible for the hate speech of religious leaders, so will Bush be held responsible for the rantings of Falwell, Robertson, Graham and others. After all, they are not peripheral figures. They are now mainstream religious leaders, courted by political leaders of both parties (especially the GOP) and treated with great, if undeserved, respect....Bush has yet to denounce these preachers by name. But they all have earned a personal rebuke....Falwell, Robertson and Graham are among the most famous ministers of our time, replacing the learned and, yes, liberal ones who offered the nation moral instruction during the civil rights era and the Vietnam War. Now we have preachers who do not counsel toleration and understanding, but a sort of bigotry -- an ugly and sweeping vilification of a whole people, in the manner of the very Islamic radicals they condemn." 1

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U.S. government's reaction to conservative Christian attacks:

Some media outlets have speculated that President Bush had not criticized Franklin Graham for his attacks on Islam because he is perceived in a very positive light by many conservative Christians -- one group that gives Bush a great deal of political support. Similarly, Bush could not criticize other Fundamentalist Christian leaders without appearing to censure Graham. The President had taken other positive actions. He visited a mosque shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. He hosted a White House Iftar -- the meal which breaks a daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early 2002-NOV. 2

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and other prominent Islamic civil rights organizations, repeatedly asked President Bush to repudiate rhetorical attacks on Islam by Fundamentalist religious leaders. 3 On 2002-NOV-13, President Bush met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The President said: "Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others....By far, the vast majority of American citizens respect the Islamic people and the Muslim faith. Ours is a country based upon tolerance...And we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values." The "diaper on their head and a fan-belt around their waist" comment by Jimmy Swaggart three days earlier may have been the deciding event that prompted President Bush to repudiate the remarks by Fundamentalist leaders. But there are rumors from the usual anonymous White House officials that the president's remarks were mainly triggered by Pat Robertson's earlier comment that Muslims are "worse than Nazis."

CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said: "It is encouraging to hear President Bush address the issue of Islamophobic rhetoric in our society. We hope the president's rejection of anti-Muslim hate speech will be followed by similar statements from other elected officials and from mainstream religious leaders." 4

Secretary of State Colin Powell, spoke to a gathering of businessmen at the State Department, on 2002-NOV-14. Echoing President Bush's on the same day, he said: "This kind of hatred must be rejected. We will reject the kinds of comments you have seen recently where people in this country say that Muslims are responsible for the killing of all Jews.''
He added that this kind of language "must be spoken out against. We cannot allow this image to go forth of America, because it is an inaccurate image of America.5

The British newspaper, The Guardian, commented that the speeches by President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell "appeared to be a coordinated White House campaign to confront anti-Islamic rhetoric from a constituency that includes some of the Bush administration's staunchest supporters." They concluded that: "As the likelihood grows of a war in Iraq there are strategic benefits for the White House in convincing Muslims that it would not be a war against their religion. The administration's increased willingness to confront the Christian right reflects the Republicans' sweeping victories in last week's mid-term elections, reducing Mr. Bush's reliance on the extreme fringes of his supporter base." 6

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Reaction by mainline and liberal Christian leaders to the attacks:

There have been many pleas by Christian leaders for tolerance, understanding, and a cessation of physical attacks on Muslims. However, on the topic of verbal attacks on Islam and Muslims by Fundamentalist Christian leaders, other Christian leaders seem to have reacted with silence.

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  1. Richard Cohen, "Imams of Inanity," Washington Post, 2002-DEC-2, at:   
  2. "Muslim group criticizes U.S. televangelist Robertson," Reuters, 2002-NOV-13.
  3. "Bush again urged to repudiate anti-Muslim hate; Jimmy Swaggart to U.S. Muslims: 'If you say one word, you're gone'," 2002-NOV-13, at: http://www.cair-net.org/asp/
  4. "Muslims welcome president's remarks on Islamophobia," Islam-Infonet, 2002-NOV-13.
  5. "Powell Criticizes Falwell, Robertson," Guardian Unlimited, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/
  6. Oliver Burkeman, "Powell attacks Christian right," Guardian Unlimited, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/

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Site navigation:

 Home > Religious hatred > Worldwide > Verbal attacks > here

or Home > Christianity > Christians & other religions > Verbal attacks > here

or Home > World Religions > Islam > Verbal attacks > here.

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Copyright © 2001 & 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-SEP-19
Latest update: 2003-MAY-9
Author: B.A. Robinson

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