Eccentric religious leaders are free to launch hate “missiles” across international borders. Media networks are totally free to spew provocative interfaith theology. The impact of unregulated religious propaganda on world peace, public diplomacy and ethical business practice is a question which merits serious debate.
The self-appointed champions of politically obsessed religious communities, be it Muslim, Christian or you name it, should realize that defending one’s people or one’s faith through gestures of hate ends up damaging one’s cause more than hurting the target.
On his TV station, on November 10, Reverend Pat Robertson condemned Islam and Muslims, in response to the Fort Hood massacre. Islam “is not a religion” he declared; it is a “violent political system”. He added that “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”.
If Robertson wishes to take violent politics out of religion, he better start within his own community. He and his fellow extreme Evangelicals are deeply involved in the promotion of war and territorial occupation in the Middle East.
What characterizes the politics of Robertson are anger and arrogance: passion for war, for power and for wealth, Armageddon culture-clash ideology, disdain for the United Nations and animosity for diversity of life-style and beliefs.
As a McCarthy disciple, Robertson’s commentary on Islam belongs to the Spanish Inquisition rather to open society.
While Muslim Americans are searching for meaningful ways to express compassion for the families and friends of the victims of Fort Hood, and while authorities at the highest levels are calling for prudence during the investigation of this awful crime, some media outlets are helping the healing and others are not.
At this critical time of emotional disequilibrium in American society, Robertson’s tasteless and inflammatory statement on Islam trivializes compassion and inspiration and pours boiling oil on deep psychological wounds. As a fellow Christian, I find Robertson an embarrassment and a catalyst of conflict.
With a clash-culture strategy, Robertson is taking on the Muslim world, a fifth of the world’s population. The harm to American foreign policy caused by Televangelical hate has not been assessed. If we wish to reduce wars and enhance communication across borders new standards of interfaith exchange must be identified.
Ghassan Michel Rubeiz is an Arab-American commentator and a former Middle East Secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.