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Moderates Everywhere Have a Duty
Last uploaded : Sunday 8th Dec 2002 at 15:41
Contributed by : Olga Davidson and Mohammed Mahallati


If there is a U.S.-led invasion to disarm Iraq, it may force hitherto neutral parties to take sides while religion is used as a formidable weapon of propaganda. The choices will be stark. Voices of restraint will be silenced in wartime. This will leave unchecked divisive and radical views that have already created tensions among different faiths.

The war in the Gulf to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, the massacre of European Muslims in former Yugoslavia, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian atrocities, the terrorist attacks on the United States in Sept. 2001 and the anti-Taliban war in Afghanistan have already created so many grievances in different parts of the world that it is a powder keg, ready to explode.

At such a crucial moment, we do not need radical clergymen and anti-Islam conservatives in the United States adding insult to injury and spreading the fire of intolerance and hatred.

A number of televangelists, including Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham, have made statements about the Prophet Mohammed and about Islam itself that are regarded by all Muslims as blasphemous. There are 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, and they form the majority of the population in 53 countries. They share a faith with a long history, a legacy
of spiritual contribution, magnificent works of science, art and architecture and a rich literary culture in a multitude of languages. Such achievements enrich the world at large.

When American televangelists slander the name of Prophet Mohammed, they slander every one of his descendant seyyeds, among them top-ranking clerics in many countries as well as the moderate heads of state of Morocco and Jordan and the reformist president of Iran.

The televangelists play straight into the hands of their radical Muslim counterparts, providing them with hurtful quotes and ready-made references to inflame anti-Christian sentiment. Radical Muslim clerics associate the televangelists with the United States and present both as a threat against their faith. Recent polls have shown that 25 percent of Americans are
receptive to the views of the radical evangelists. Unless the other 75 percent speak out in more effective ways, such extremist views will be regarded by the rest of the world as representing America as a whole.

Moderate Christian, Muslim and Jewish clerics everywhere should elucidate the differences and similarities among the three Abrahamic faiths, with the starting point the same monotheistic God who is worshiped by all three. They should emphasize the role that these religions have played in history. They should not shy away from unpalatable truths about acts of intolerance now or in the past.

# # #

Olga Davidson is a professor in women's studies at Brandeis University.

Mohammed Mahallati, a former ambassador of Iran to the United Nations who is
now a scholar at McGill University in Montreal, led the negotiations to end
the Iran-Iraq war.

Source: The International Herald Tribune, December 4, 2002

Visit The International Herald Tribune at http://www.iht.com

JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News service for providing copyright permission for publication.

e-mail: cgnews@sfcg.org

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