Who are the infidels now?
Who are the infidels now?
Comment: Who are the infidels now?
For years, Muslim fanatics have tried to sow hatred between Muslims and ''infidels'' (read Christians). Similarly, Christian fanatics have tried to sow hatred between followers of their faith and ''infidels'' (read Muslims).
Rev. Franklin Graham is a dangerous example of the growing fundamentalist trend that views all non-Christians as godless heathens. In a recent op-ed article for the Los Angeles Times, he expressed the wish to minister "quietly" to Iraq's suffering people.
Mr. Graham is the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, the friend and spiritual confidant of half a dozen U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush and his father. The elder Mr. Graham became a household name in the Muslim world when he began calling Islam a "wicked" and "evil" religion, "a greater threat than anyone's willing to speak."
And now Franklin Graham's charitable organization, the Samaritan's Purse, wants to bring Christianity to postwar Iraq. If the Americans allow this group to enter the country, it will be seen by Muslims -- and a good many moderate Christians -- as a blatant act of provocation. It is almost certain that Samaritan's Purse workers would have to be escorted by U.S. military forces to protect them against assassination attempts.
The picture is painfully familiar to the Arab and Muslim worlds (along with many in today's developing countries), for the days are not long past when Christian missionaries -- with the open or subtle support of European colonial powers -- came along offering Western-style education with one hand and the Bible with the other. While the missionaries evangelized, their Western co-religionists were robbing the natives of their natural resources and their freedom.
Today, Washington and London failed to convince any country in the Arab or Muslim worlds -- not to mention many in the West -- that their war against Iraq was justified. Many Muslim citizens of Arab countries believe the Iraq war was really a war on Islam and Muslims.
A common thread in this story is that fanatics of all stripes have always played with fire and are still doing so. Billy Graham has written that Christianity and Islam are locked in a "classic struggle that will end with the second coming of Christ," and that "the war against terrorism is just another conflict between evil and The Name" (meaning Jesus Christ). In an interview last October on CBS's 60 Minutes, Rev. Jerry Falwell called the Prophet Mohammed "a terrorist."
The brutal logic of fanatics is always the same. They seek to divide the world between Good and Evil, between "righteous" and "infidel." They use violence, or obtain armed protection to throw up walls of hatred and distrust between people and nations. Fanatics work hard against accommodation, understanding and acceptance. Instead, they promote confrontation that inevitably leads to warfare.
In Muslim Spain around the year 859, a small band of fanatical Christians deliberately insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Koran in hopes of being rewarded by execution or, in their terms, martyrdom. Many Spanish Christians feared these fanatics would poison the good relations that then existed between Christians and their Muslim rulers. Their fears were well-founded: Muslim rulers issued new regulations restricting the role of Christians in the royal court and government. As a result, many Christians unwillingly converted to Islam or emigrated in the decades that followed.
During the past 100 years of struggle for decolonization, many leaders across the Muslim world used religious issues to motivate their people to resistance. The French and British (and now the Americans) were presented as the new Crusaders, as intolerant fanatics bent on conquest and conversion.
Because reason is a rare word in the American English Dictionary right now, George Bush may well agree to open the way for Franklin Graham and his Samaritan's Purse workers to enter "free Iraq." Sadly, that will be just one more victory for fanatics.
Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.