Americans Do Not Understand Islam
Americans want to believe we are a decent and good people. Yet some of our most influencial religious leaders currently pray for a holocaust -- a major war in the Middle East. They argue the "Bible" predicts a horrendous battle in the region "where the blood will flow as high as the heads of horses," and which will bring the Second Coming of Christ. Jews will either convert to Christianity or be destroyed. Estimates suggest there are approximately 45 million evangelical Christians who believe this way in the US. A key leader of this group is the Rev. Jerry Falwell. In a television interview, this influencial leader called the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h), "a terrorist." [download MOVIE clip (520k)]
Rev. Jerry Falwell Calls Muhammad a Terrorist
source: CBS 60 Minutes, 6.8.03
SPECIAL: Should Christians Convert Muslims?
Rev. Jerry Falwell says:
It is stunning, absolutely horrifying, that a prominent evangelical leader would make such a statement. The CBS 60 Minutes correspondent asked, "So the same way that Moses provided the ultimate example for the Jews, and the same way that Jesus provided the ultimate example for the Christians, Muhammad provided the ultimate example for Muslims, and he was a terrorist?"
FALWELL'S RESPONSE: "In my opinon, and I do believe that Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses, and I think that Muhammad set an opposite example."
What frightens other key leaders of both Christian and Jewish organizations is we hear much of Falwell's worldview reflected in the words of the Bush administration, i.e., "the evil ones," Bush's "black and white" view of good guys v. the bad guys. These leaders argue we must get "God" out of this conflict, if we truly want to establish a lasting peace in the Middle East.
Yet Falwell (and others) wrote a letter of warning to President Bush saying, "It would be morally reprehensible for the United States to be even-handed between democratic Israel and the terrorist-infested Palestinian infrastructure."
The Threat to Road Map From US
Giles Fraser, The Guardian
June 10, 2003
OXFORD, 10 June 2003 - Just as new life is being breathed into the peace process, religious groups throughout the US are whipping up hostility to the road map. The aim of the Christian-Jewish "interfaith Zionist leadership summit" held in Washington last month was "to oppose rewarding murderous Palestinian terrorism with statehood". Attending the conference were some of the most influential figures of the Christian right.
Since the late 19th century, an increasing number of fundamentalists have come to believe that the second coming of Christ is bound up with the political geography of Israel. Forget about the pre-1967 boundaries; for them the boundaries that count are the ones shown on maps at the back of the Bible. The acceptance of the state of Israel by the UN in 1949 brought much excitement to those who believed the second coming was being prepared for. A similar reaction greeted the Six Day War in 1967. The displacement of Palestinians mattered little compared with the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Writing in Christianity Today immediately after the Six Day War, Billy Graham's father-in-law, Nelson Bell, claimed the fact that "for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives the student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in its accuracy and validity."
So as the international community withdrew its embassies after the war, and the UN passed Resolution 242 condemning Israel's occupation of the West Bank, the International Christian Embassy was set up to show support for Israel. Since then the Christian right has staunchly opposed trading land for peace or any attempt to broker a settlement by power-sharing arrangements. The destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque continues to be sought after by both Christian and Jewish fundamentalists. US churches are encouraged to form links with Jewish settlers via email and to support them through fund-raising.
Happy to have any friend it can get, the Israeli government has long since exploited its connections with far-right US Christian groups. While moderate Christians, such as the Palestinian Bishop of Jerusalem, cannot get to see Ariel Sharon despite repeated requests, the door is always open to southern Baptists and TV evangelists.
What is astonishing about this marriage of convenience is that their version of evangelical Christianity believes that biblical prophecy leads to Armageddon and finally to the conversion of the Jews to Christ. According to the most influential of the Christian Zionists, Hal Lindsey, the valley from Galilee to Eilat will flow with blood and "144,000 Jews would bow down before Jesus and be saved, but the rest of Jewry would perish in the mother of all holocausts". These lunatic ravings would matter little were they not so influential. Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, has sold nearly 20 million copies in English and another 30 million-plus worldwide.
Against this crazy theological background, an ideological battle is now being waged. Despite the fact that apocalyptic prophecy as read by the Christian right ends with another holocaust, some Israeli politicians and journalists are encouraging fundamentalists to stick by the implications of their narrative.
There are 45 million evangelicals in the US and they represent a crucial block vote for born-again Bush. It is therefore to his credit that he has resisted their pressure and managed to persuade Sharon to accept the peace plan. Perhaps Bush is able to take the evangelical vote for granted in much the same way as Blair is able to take the left's vote for granted: Both have nowhere else to go. Yet Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem doesn't trust Bush. He thinks the combination of European impotence and the US's refusal to pressure Israelis into stopping building settlements means the plan is already dead in the water. "It took them six days to occupy the Palestinian territories; they could get out in three," he says. Bishop Riah has persuaded the World Council of Churches to call for sanctions on all products from the occupied territories.
The diocese of Jerusalem runs hospitals in Gaza and Nablus. It's in places like these that the real work of Christian ministry is conducted. By contrast, US evangelicals oppose the peace process and swarm into Iraq to convert its people to Christianity.
--The Rev Dr. Giles Fraser is the vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.
© Copyright InfoImagination, 2003