What If A Muslim Had Said That?
In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
The Rev. Pat Robertson’s comments about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have created an international stir. Robertson - founder of the Christian Coalition and former Republican candidate for President - said on his show:
“If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war…We have the ability to take him out and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”
And why should President Chavez be “taken out”? To stop Venezuela from becoming
“a launching pad for communist influence and Muslim extremism.”
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel was outraged and said,
“The ball in the U.S. court after this criminal statement by a citizen of that country. It’s a huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country, there are entirely terrorist statements like those.”
The response of the Bush Administration has been completely pathetic. The White House has said nothing at all. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called his comments “inappropriate.” He also said, “This is not the policy of the United States government. We do not share his views.”
Wow! What a condemnation!
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was similarly dismissive:
“He’s a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.”
Hmm…very interesting. Let’s say, for instance, if that “private citizen” was a Muslim? What would have been the response of the Bush Administration? What if a Muslim had said the same thing? Would it have been labeled as “incitement to terrorism”? Would it have been described as “material support for a terrorist organization”? Would the Muslim who said what Rev. Robertson said be called an “enemy combatant” and shipped to Guantanamo Bay?
If the Rev. Robertson said those words in the U.K., would he have been deported? After all, the British Home Secretary Charles Clarke said in a statement that the deportation rules apply to any foreigner who:
“uses any means or medium, including:
- writing, producing, publishing or distributing material;
- public speaking including preaching;
- running a website; or
- using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader
to express views which:
- foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs;
- seek to provoke others to terrorist acts;
- foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts; or
- foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”
Doesn’t Pat Robertson’s statement seem to express a view which foments “serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts”?
Now, to be fair, Mr. Robertson did apologize: “Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that weaccommodatecomodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him.”
Still, if a Muslim had said the same thing, I would almost bet the farm that he (or she) would be called a “terrorist.” But, when the Rev. Robertson - leader of a significant constituency of the Republican Party - makes such a statement, he is called a “private citizen” whose remarks were “inappropriate.”
Now, this does not mean I advocate calling Mr. Robertson a “terrorist.” Absolutely not. He is a man of Cloth, whether or not you agree with his politics or views, and he deserves to be respected as such. Yet, this double standard is unfair and wrong. Now, I am sure some of you are thinking to yourselves, “Here he goes, whining about how bad it is for Muslims.”
No. I’m really not trying to whine. And I acknowledge that this is not the first time I have said such a thing. Still, all I am calling for is fairness and even-handedness, and it is important to keep reminding ourselves of this. If the cries of condemnation would have been louder if a Muslim had said what Rev. Robertson said, then that is wrong. An irresponsible statement is irresponsible, and the faith of its author is - and should always be - completely immaterial.