“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” ( John 8:7)
by Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
The recent virtually back to back derogatory comments about Islam by the Reverends Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham have made it patently clear that as reputable Christian leaders they are out on a deliberate systematic and provocative campaign to generate hatred of Islam. Their execrable remarks contradict the very essence of Jesus’s teaching, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”, John 8:7.
On his ‘700 Club’ Robertson declared, “Islam is not a religion. It is a violent political system bent on overthrow of the governments of the world, and world domination…we should treat it as such and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party or members of some fascist group.” Not to be outdone, the Reverend Graham reiterated his view to Campbell Brown on CNN that Islam is an ‘evil and wicked religion’.
Such views are not new for these men of cloth. In fact the demonization of Islam was at an all time high during the Republican primaries when presidential wannabees and their acolytes including Huckabee, Parsley and Guiliani tried to outdo each other in their venomous diatribes against Islam and Muslims. It took great courage on the part of President Obama, himself branded a Muslim, to speak out against such hideous misrepresentation of a religion that nearly 20% of the world’s population follows.
Notwithstanding, the resurgent assaults against Islam by these two prominent religious Christian leaders makes it abundantly clear that the crusade against Islam is on the rise and as long as US forces are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and by proxy in Pakistan, Muslims will remain the ‘bad guys’ and Islam is fair game to demonize. Despite the malignant depictions of their religions by a motley group of Christian fundamentalists the Muslim responses have generally been restrained. They have ranged from the almost apologetic in the setting of a post-911 collective guilt, to admissions of incredulity that enlightened peoples in a democratic society could turn on their fellow citizens with such contempt for events over which they had no control, to and ad nauseam condemnation of terror as the antithesis of Islam, to at best vehement attempts to repudiate the anti-Islamic invectives. These seem to have been of no avail.The time has thus come for niceties and ‘mea culpas’ in dealing with inveterate liars and bigots to be over. Muslims must take on a counter-offensive unapologetic posture that exposes the ‘big lies’ for what they are, while not for a moment abdicating their role as rightful guardians of their country against terror in any guise.
It is thus in a spirit of ‘ecumenism’ of sorts that I would like to address my misguided Christian cousins of the Abrahamic Faith with whom we worship the One God, certain facts of history before they undergo revisionist change. The facts are that long before Muslims started such unconscionable actions as those witnessed on 911, there were others who were guilty of multiple and unremitting acts of inhumanity against their fellow beings that dwarf the malevolence of the Muslim misanthropes. Muslims were not responsible for labeling another religious group as ‘Christ-killers’. Muslims were not behind the relentless pogroms against these wretched people for nearly two millennia. Muslims did not instigate the crusades or Inquisition. Muslims were not culpable for the virtual extermination of the Incas in Peru, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Native Americans of this country. Muslims were not behind the most devastating wars against humanity viz World War 1 and World War 2. The man who was doing ‘The Lords work’ in the single most atrocious act in the annals of history, the Holocaust, was not a Muslim. Neither were the klansmen, who who were the prototypical terrorists, Muslims.
Muslims were not responsible for the carnage in Bosnia and Chechnya, and for the ongoing totally unprovoked devastation in Iraq. Muslims did not deploy the ultimate weapon of mass destruction on the hapless peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No, the perpetrators of these abominations were not Muslims. They were Christians, but Christians in name only. They no more represent the love and compassion of Christianity than do fanatic or heretical Muslims who commit evil in the name of Islam. Islam stands for love of the One God, for the universal brotherhood of all humanity and for peace through justice. There is nothing that Jesus stood for that contradicts what Muslims believe in. Both Christianity and Islam teach love of one’s neighbor and the sanctity of life. Notwithstanding the compassion that is the bedrock of both Islam and Christianity, it is not only misguided Christians who have betrayed the quintessence of their religion, but also Muslims who have committed diabolical acts in the name of theirs. From the excesses of the Ottoman Empire to the terrible internecine conflicts, with Muslims butchering other Muslims selectively, as in the dreadful Iran -Iraq war, the civil wars in Algeria and the Sudan, and culminating in the mindless carnage on 911, Muslims have defiled their religion. And now as the US led war against ‘an insurgency’ on three fronts escalates, so does the mindless victimization of Muslims by their co-religionists reel out of control, leading the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to make an unprecedented declaration on the occasion of the holiest day of the recent Hajj, ‘Suicide operations have become a curse on Muslim lands. The most serious problem the Muslim community is facing lately is from a deviant ideology’. Thus Muslims are far from blameless, but Islam cannot be held accountable for the unworthiness of some of its adherents anymore than Christianity can for the zealotry of some of its followers. It is malicious, not just disingenuous for the entire Muslim community to be placed on the defensive, in effect a virtual red alert, every time a psychopath, be he a Muslim psychiatrist stricken with a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or a Nigerian airline passenger whose family disowns him out of fear of his affiliation with Al Qaeda, commits or plans to commit an atrocity in the name of Islam.
So my respected cousins, when you know, as learned leaders like you should, that Islam and Christianity share so much in common why do you go out of your way to denigrate Islam and willfully place so many of your fellow countrymen deliberately in harms way or in the least to be subject to utter contempt? I would proffer two possible explanations for your calumnious transgressions.
The first is my belief that you have an intrinsic racist and Eurocentric disdain towards Muslims who essentially are people of color. As such they predominantly represent peoples of the world who are impoverished uneducated and unsophisticated and yet have the unmitigated gall to make the claim that Islam is the perfection of the religion from which Judaism and Christianity both arise. It is an affront to the materially and technologically and culturally advanced people, essentially of Euopean Islamophobia-prone descent, to be reminded that the ‘pigmented backward peoples’ of the world could claim a spiritual superiority.
This has been a sticking point for anti-Muslim polemicists in the past and you my cousins of today for want of better arguments can only offer the same spurious recycled views, now on life support, to distort and denigrate Islam. Obviously in demonizing Islam as evil, you expect to offer Christianity as the alternative. Certainly as both Islam and Christianity are religions that promote proselytisation, it is understandable that in the battle for the hearts and souls of humanity you would use the finest arguments to attract more adherents to your fold. But you can only and truly win the hearts and minds of people with a positive message of truth. Lies distortions and malice coupled with bribery, can never ultimately win.
In this regard I would like to refer you to the universality of the message of the late Pope John Paul III who embraced all races cultures and religions because he was not intimidated by any other, was quietly confident of his path to God and did not feel the need, nor did he consider it morally justifiable, to engage in negative campaigns against other religions. That is why his Papacy had such a catholic appeal, even though he knew that no religion promoted itself as second best.
Unlike he, while the rest of us have no illusions of attaining sainthood, we should ask God to at least grant us the humility to respect one another with dignity, because as the Quran states,” To each of you God has prescribed a law and a way. If God would have willed, he could have made you a single people. But God’s purpose is to test you in what he has given to each of you, so strive in the pursuit of virtue, and know that you will all return to God in the Hereafter, and He will resolve all the matters in which you disagree”, ( 5: 49 ). My Abrahamic cousins, you have an absolute right to disagree about differences in our religious beliefs, and a consitutionally protected free speech to promote your own views and even malign others. What you do not have is the sanction of our Lord to flirt with mendacity and cavort with malice, knowing full well that such behaviour will harm others who seek succour in the One God. Be mindful of what Jesus commanded,“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” Matthew 7:1.