Brother Pat, the enemy isn't Islam

March 04, 2002|By Clarence Page

WASHINGTON - An open memo to Pat Robertson.

Dear Brother Pat:

Since your followers like to portray you as being constantly under attack from the "liberal" media, I take pains to present this critique in the form of brotherly advice - from one Christian to another.

Pat, the Muslims who feel offended by your recent put-down of their faith as "not a peaceful religion" have good reasons to gripe.

I know what you were trying to say, that SOME Muslims have taken some passages or words in the Koran to mean they should wage a relentless "jihad," a holy war against the West, and that Americans need not be naive about that.

But, of course, stating the obvious would not have gotten you much attention, would it?

So, instead, you removed the "some" from your sentiments and made it sound like you think all Muslims, deep down inside, are obliged to kill "infidels," us nonbelievers, in order to be good Muslims.

You did this after presenting a slanted report on your 700 Club program on your Christian Broadcasting Network that portrayed Muslim immigrants as apologists for terrorism. When the show's co-host, Lee Webb, asked you, "If they have such contempt for our foreign policy, why'd they even want to live here?" you offered a simple explanation.

"Well, as missionaries," you said, "probably to spread the doctrine of Islam."

Earth to Pat: Could it be that most Muslim immigrants come here for the same reason most other immigrants do, to seek a better life for themselves and their families?

"I have taken issue with our esteemed president in regard to his stand in saying Islam is a peaceful religion," you said. "It's just not. And the Koran makes it very clear, if you see an infidel, you are to kill him. That's what it says. Now that doesn't sound very peaceful to me."

Whoa, you knocked me for a loop with that one. Where, I wondered, was your source for that little nugget? In two later CNN appearances, you answered my question. "The Encyclopedia Britannica," you said, and invited your doubters to look it up.

I did. And you know what? You were right - partly. Under "jihad," the Britannica's online edition offers "a religious duty imposed on Muslims to spread Islam by waging war."

But a few sentences later it elaborates, "Modern Islam places special emphasis on waging war with one's inner self. It sanctions war with other nations only as a defensive measure when the faith is in danger."

Indeed, that coincides with the "religion of peace" that most of the Muslims I have known, including Muslim clerics and a couple of my own cousins, say they are worshipping.

But I also looked up "holy war," the translation of "jihad," and the online Britannica led me to an abundance of examples of Christians who also have used scripture taken from the Book of Joshua and other Old Testament contexts to justify their own jihads, particularly against Muslims and Jews.

I don't need to tell you the bloody, sorry history of Christian jihads, Pat. They happened in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and countless other pogroms that today's Christians might rather forget.

That's why Muslims are not the only folks whom your remarks upset. A lot of us have grown quite weary of jihads. We don't want to see another one waged in the name of Jesus.

On CNN, you praised President Bush for the master diplomatic stroke of charging that Osama bin Laden had "hijacked Islam." But then you said, "When you get right down to it, Osama bin Laden is probably truer to Muhammad" than those to whom Mr. Bush is reaching out.

Oh? Who is to say who is "truer to Muhammad"? Certainly not us Christians.

Today's Islamic world is divided enough within itself over such thorny issues as whose vision is "truer to Muhammad."

On one side, the backward-looking Islamic radicals follow bin Laden and his ilk, trying to stop the clock of world progress and waging war against the West.

On the other side, forward-looking modernists want to emulate the political, economic, scientific and cultural progress that the West has made while much of the Islamic world has been stalled for centuries by internal strife.

Pat, you are absolutely right to say that Americans need to know their enemy. But, as Mr. Bush has proclaimed repeatedly, the enemy is not Islam. It is terrorism. If we pick fights with our friends, the terrorists will win.

Peace,

Clarence

Clarence Page is a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune publishing newspaper.

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