No attempt is made by Christian fundamentalists, who are hopelessly mired in the medieval thought-world, to actually understand Islam. Their purpose instead is to demonize it. The old crusader mentality is alive and well on the Right and marching in lockstep with that ancient persecution complex should anyone raise an eyebrow at their absurd claims.
A perfect example of this is found in the recent remarks of Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, who said, “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”
This is a clear and all-encompassing denunciation of Islam as a whole, and the entire body of its followers. It’s a clear attempt to remove Islam from the Abrahamic tent – Allah isn’t even the same god as the god of Moses.
Sarah Palin, no less strident than Graham, attempted to claim in Graham’s defense that he was only attacking radical Muslims who kill women and children but as any literate person can see, this is not the case at all. Graham was merely stating what many Christian fundamentalists fervently believe.
After Graham’s remarks got him uninvited from a Pentagon-sponsored National Day of Prayer function, he not surprisingly cried persecution for his beliefs and we were forced to sit through another rehashing of the old “war on Christianity” myth. Graham whined that “It looks like Islam has gotten a pass. They are able to have their services, but just because I disagree … I’m excluded.”
Graham seems impervious to the obvious truth that the National Day of Prayer itself is a government-sponsored celebration of Christianity at taxpayer expense – in violation of the Constitution. Yes, I’d say Christians got their day. They were far from excluded.
The only people who were really excluded were the people who for fundamentalists qualify as the “other” – agnostics, atheists, Pagans, Muslims and others.
The recent experience of Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison illustrates this point. His announcement that he would place his hand on a Qur’an rather than a Bible elicited a Right-wing firestorm of outrage. Conservative columnist and talk show host Dennis Prager led the charge, saying that “He should not be allowed to do so, not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American culture.” Apparently thinking that the United States was founded as a theocracy, he went on to complain that Ellison should swear on a Bible, which “America holds as its holiest book. … If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t
serve in Congress.”
What is it that the Constitution says again? Oh, let’s see…”no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article VI).
The Constitution says that Dennis Prager is an idiot, but he is far from alone in those waters.
This brings us to Sarah Palin. Remember her claim that Barack Obama, then running for president, was “palling around with terrorists.” She was speaking specifically of Bill Ayers, a former member of the Vietnam-era militant Weather Underground organization, but the implication is clear. And her charge has been echoed by others – even to the extent that Obama is accused of not being a Christian at all but a Muslim in disguise, someone who, in Palin’s words, “is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America.” In other words, he is not a “real American”. Even Department of Justice lawyers assigned to represent Gitmo detainees have been accused by former vice president Dick Cheney of being “terrorist sympathizers.”
Most recently, conservatives are accusing Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, as being supportive of terrorism. The logic seems to be that liberals don’t hate Islam and if you don’t hate Islam you’re soft on terrorism. There is no logical connection between the two (Timothy McVeigh, after all, was a Republican, a veteran, an NRA member, militia supporter, and a Christian – in short, one of Palin’s “real” Americans) but logic does not seem to enter into it.
Charles Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowships Ministries, told the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastor’s Conference that “Islam is a vicious evil.” While decrying Islam’s goal of imposing Sharia law on the entire world, Colson (apparently immune to the concept of hypocrisy) stated “What is our purpose in life It is to restore the fallen culture to the glory of God. It’s to take command and dominion over every aspect of life, whether it’s music, science, law, politics, communities, families, to bring Christianity to bear in every single area of life”
That is, after all, what Palin’s “real Americans” want – an America enslaved to the Ten Commandments, a system of religious law as repressive as Sharia law. While decrying the viciousness and barbarity of Sharia law, Christian fundamentalists are more than happy to stoke hatred of homosexuals in Uganda, leading to the very real possibility of the death penalty for violation of their god’s law. Others urge a return to stoning in this country.
From the outside looking in, there is little to choose between one set of repressive religious laws and another. It hardly matters if a Christian or a Muslim is throwing the stone – it will kill you either way. Hatred and intolerance is the same, whatever their source, Islamic Wahabist or Christian Dominionist.
The key thing is that the vast majority of Christians are not dominionists, or any other stripe of fundamentalist; and the vast majority of Muslims are not extremists, let alone terrorists. Islam is not at war with the United States any more than the United States is at war with Islam. Bush era crusades notwithstanding, the United States is not involved in a holy war and, because the United States was not founded as a Christian nation, cannot be, whatever apocalyptic hopes fundamentalists on either side might entertain. The Treaty of Tripoli (ratified 1797) made this clear and the point needs to be hammered home again.
The United States is a secular nation composed of religionists of all types waging a war in its own defense and against all terrorists, whatever their politics or religion, who seek to harm our country and its inhabitants. Religion is not, and cannot be allowed to become part of the equation.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.