This article by Eric Gorski, whose truth-challenged reporting has come under scrutiny at Jihad Watch and other blogs before, is a fairly standard study of misrepresentation of the jihadist threat in the mainstream media. In other words, it isn’t worth much as information for information’s sake, but reading between the lines can be highly instructive.
“‘Radical Islam’ should jolt voters, evangelicals say,” by Eric Gorski for the Associated Press:
Following last month’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, conservative Christian power-broker Gary Bauer sent an e-mail to supporters.
He ticked off the issues dear to activists in attendance. …
Then the one-time presidential hopeful turned his attention to a different threat, one social conservative leaders hope will shake their constituents from their apathy about the 2008 presidential race.
“The war against Islamofascism is in many respects a ‘values issue,”‘ Bauer wrote. “That may seem like an odd statement at first glance, but, as I have often said, losing Western Civilization to this vicious enemy would be immoral.”
“It’s the ultimate life issue,” said Rick Scarborough, president of the Texas-based conservative Christian group Vision America. “If radical Islam succeeds in its ultimate goals, Christianity ceases to exist.”
It may seem like a small point, but this sort of inaccuracy– not acknowledging the dhimmi laws, which “protect” Christians and other “People of the Book,” but subject them to humiliation and oppression as perpetual second-class citizens — is quite unhelpful in that it gives an apologist an opportunity to derail the debate and paint sugar-coated pictures of Muslim / non-Muslim coexistence, the supposed convivencia in Islamic Spain, and so on.
That might sound alarmist, but Scarborough’s words illustrate how many conservative Christian leaders view matters of national security as a battle between good and evil “” nothing short of a clash of civilizations.
With America at war in Iraq and continued aftershocks from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, national security is an issue for all the campaigns. But disagreement exists about how to frame the threat, with Republicans more likely to blame radical Islam
and Democrats speaking more generally about terrorism.
The use of “Islamofascism” is another flashpoint. Proponents of the term argue that Islamic radicals who embrace totalitarian methods evoke European fascist movements of the early 20th century. Critics call it manufactured propaganda, a 21st-century scare tactic that fails to capture the complex causes of terrorism.
Fine. Try “jihad.” It’s shorter, and doesn’t “fail to capture the complex causes of terrorism.”
Tensions between evangelical Christianity and Islam are long-standing, too. Aside from major theological differences, the two traditions work tirelessly to win new believers and often compete. Evangelical missionary groups have long protested restrictions on access to predominantly Muslim nations in Africa and the Middle East.
Yes, they “often compete.” But it’s not a free market, and what makes that the case is Islamic law, which forbids the promotion of other beliefs, prescribes the death penalty for apostasy, and forces Christians and other “People of the Book” to live as second-class citizens, or dhimmis.
The Sept. 11 attacks, carried out by Muslims who cited their religion as a motivating factor, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have further inflamed evangelical anxiety.
So, why is the Christian right so concerned with Islam?
“These Christian right activists are very concerned with order,” said John Green, a senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “And radical Islam, in the same way that radical Communism was, is a threat that would interfere with families,
with good government, and also the church and the spreading of the Gospel.”
Order? What John Green is describing almost sounds like a Christian variant of Sharia (and this would be good point to note that Gorski’s article never mentions the jihadist imperative to impose Islamic law). Of course, this charge is a red herring brought out by those who wish to portray conservative Christians as being as dangerous to a free society as the Taliban.
Alternatively, one might posit the explanation that these groups, being committed to a non-Islamic faith and the freedom to practice it, and also often being in contact with Christians persecuted in the Islamic world, are in a position to realize what they stand to lose under Islamic law. And they certainly aren’t alone there, but they’re the easiest group to portray as bad guys.
Not surprisingly, U.S. Muslim leaders are critical of the pitched rhetoric and warn of the consequences if evangelical leaders fail to separate militants from the vast majority of Muslims.
Note to U.S. Muslim leaders: that’s your job.
“If you look at the global picture, what these groups are doing is reinforcing the idea that America is in a crusade against Islam, and that this not a war against a group of extremists, but a war between religions,” said Salam Al-Marayati, executive
director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. “In the long run, it’s to the detriment of America’s interests and it’s pandering to a bloc of voters in a very shortsighted way.”
Still, in meetings with Republican presidential candidates, Christian conservatives are most interested in hearing an acknowledgment of the Islamic threat. The GOP hopefuls are obliging.
Giuliani “” whose preferred term is “Islamic terrorists” “” has denounced Democrats for failing to use the phrase. Christian conservative leaders acknowledge their elevation of the issue has contributed to an ironic twist at the top of the polls: Giuliani, the candidate most associated with the war on terrorism, not only won Robertson’s endorsement but is polling well among evangelicals despite his two divorces and support for abortion rights and gay rights.
A threat as massive as that which the jihadists pose requires making common cause with those with whom one disagrees on other issues. And doing so recognizes that the jihadists threaten us all, not just a particular voting bloc.