CHRISTIAN'S ARREST TWISTS ARGUMENT
Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald, 6/9/03
The story is almost certainly apocryphal, but here it is for what it's worth:
Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muhammad Ali was supposedly visiting ground zero when someone asked a barbed question: How did Ali, the most famous Muslim in the world who is not a terrorist, feel about sharing his religion with Osama bin Laden? The champ shot back, ``How does it feel to share yours with Hitler?''
As I said, the story -- it began circulating shortly after the attacks -- is probably not true, but it ought to be. It's valuable for what it says about our tendency to demonize the unfamiliar and overlook the obvious.
Which brings us to Eric Rudolph, alleged Christian terrorist.
And, to this question: Is that a fair term to describe the accused serial bomber? Some observers have begun debating that since Rudolph's recent arrest in North Carolina, among them The Washington Post, which raised the issue in a story last week, and Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar, Midwest communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who tackled it a few days ago in The Herald.
RELIGION AND TERRORISM WHAT DO WE CALL HIM?
By KAMRAN MEMON, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/9/03
Kamran Memon is a civil rights attorney in Chicago. He serves on the board of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The AOL Time Warner chat rooms are buzzing. The academics are arguing. The debate about Eric Robert Rudolph's title has begun: Is he an alleged "terrorist" or an alleged "Christian terrorist"?
Rudolph, suspected of violently targeting homosexuals and abortion rights supporters, is allegedly a Christian, possibly linked to the Christian Identity movement and its Army of God. So now Americans are wrestling once again with the connection between religion and terrorism, which burst into our collective consciousness on Sept. 11, 2001, if not before.
Back then, the titles seemed obvious. And if Rudolph had been Muslim, this would have been a no-brainer too. The only debate would have been between "Muslim terrorist" or "Islamic terrorist." After all, Muslims are viewed as "foreigners" and "outsiders" - even though Muslim slaves helped build this country, even though at least one-third of American Muslims are African-Americans and even though American-born children of Muslim immigrants make up another large segment of the community.
But Rudolph has been identified as a Christian, and Americans are much more familiar with Christianity. Many Americans actually know Christians, and they're not such bad folks. Plus, Christians don't get much bad press, aside from sexual misconduct by some priests. So it's not easy for Americans to link the Christian faith to terrorism.
Fewer Americans know a Muslim; there are fewer Muslims to know. And a lot of them have accents, and they eat unusual foods. In addition, many Muslims keep to themselves, fearing rejection and hostility. Plus, Americans keep getting news reports linking Islam to violence overseas. And Sept. 11, 2001, didn't help.
Despite America's familiarity with Christianity, some argue that Rudolph should be called an alleged "Christian terrorist" because he allegedly used violence to further his allegedly "Christian" agenda, just as "Muslim terrorists" used violence to further their allegedly "Islamic" agenda.
There are others, though, who argue that "Christian terrorist" just doesn't sound right. After all, how can the teachings of Jesus be associated with terrorism?
As an American Muslim, I lean towards the latter view. After all, the Quran teaches us that Jesus was a prophet of God, and no prophet of God teaches terrorism...
So where does all this leave Muslims, who cringe when they hear the media and politicians link Islam with terrorism, just because a Muslim used Islam to justify his acts of terror? Hopefully, the press and the politicians will one day come to understand that a Muslim who commits acts of terror is misguided and rebelling against the true teachings of Prophet Muhammad.
But before that day comes, Muslims have to do a much better job of reaching out and explaining our faith. Much better. And our neighbors have to do a much better job of listening, and of separating politics from religion. Much better.