Info-Prod Research (Middle East)
October 14, 2002
Christian fundamentalist Jerry Falwell said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on 6 October: “I think Mohammed was a terrorist. He — I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and — and – – non-Muslims, that he was a — a violent man, a man of war.” Falwell went on to claim that Mohammed’s example was the opposite of Jesus’. Falwell described a conflict with Christians and Jews on one side and Muslims on the other side, and he said that the battle line was drawn more than a thousand years ago.Falwell’s comments have offended Muslims in Iran (and pretty much everywhere else).
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said during a 6 October meeting with Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary-General Abdelouahed Belkeziz that Falwell’s comments are part of the “American mass media’s psychological and propaganda war which is conducted by the Zionists,” IRNA reported.Grand Ayatollah Hussein Nuri-Hamedani said that Falwell’s comments bordered on blasphemy, were the revival of ignorance, and they were part of a Zionist plot to cause rifts between Muslims and Christians. Nuri-Hamedani added that Muslim countries should end their relations with and oil exports to the U.S., Iranian state radio’s external English-language service reported on 8 October.Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani during the 11 October Friday prayers in Tehran also discussed Falwell’s comments, although he was a bit sketchy on the details. “A television station has interviewed the pastor for 60 minutes who says such things to the people and insults a prophet who registered the greatest civilization in the history of mankind.” Falwell’s comments, as well as those of two other fundamentalists — Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham — reveal a new American plot against Muslims, Hussein Shariatmadari wrote in the 8 October issue of “Kayhan,” a daily affiliated with the supreme leader’s office. Shariatmadari wrote, “They are prominent employees of the U.S. government and all three have official posts in the White House.” Their comments therefore indicate the official White House position, which means it is the “most basic right” of any Muslim to attack American interests anywhere in the world. Shariatmadari recommended an oil boycott. He also wrote, “the three priests linked with the Zionists must be put to death because they have insulted Islam and the Prophet of God (peace unto him).” A few hundred protestors gathered in front of the CBS office in New York City on 8 October, accused the network of spreading anti-Muslim prejudice, and shouted “Shame, Shame CBS!” Director of the Islamic Circle Of North America Naeem Baig said that Falwell’s statement was “completely hateful.” He continued, according to CBS: “Mohammed was a prophet. He was a man of peace. There is no incident in history where he acted like a terrorist.” Falwell’s comments caused disquiet in other parts of the Muslim world, too.There was total shutdown of activity in Kashmir on 7 October, New Delhi’s “Hindustan Times” reported, with riots in Srinigar and the closure of shops, banks, and schools. Jerusalem’s Higher Islamic Commission on 7 October condemned Falwell’s statement, the Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency reported.Its statement said that “this Zionised reverend and his likes” are prompted by “rancor and bigotry.” In a 7 October roundtable program on Abu Dhabi TV, the chief editor of Cairo’s “Al-Arabi” newspaper, Abdullah al-Sinawi, said that there is campaign against Islam. Falwell’s statement, therefore, is a precursor to war. According to al- Sinawi, the statement means that the Prophet Mohammad is a terrorist and his followers are terrorists, so a strike against them is justified.Karachi’s “Ummat” — an Urdu-language daily with Islamic fundamentalist leanings and an anti-U.S. stance — said on 7 October that the anti-Muslim statements of “extremist Christian priests” are part of the anti-Muslim campaign that President George W. Bush launched after 11 September. The newspaper urged Muslim states to take Falwell’s words seriously and to lodge a formal protest with the United States. Pakistan’s second largest daily, Rawalpindi’s Urdu- language “Nawa-i-Waqt,” claimed in an 8 October editorial that in America, “every Muslim is spied upon 24 hours a day. Telephone calls, the Internet, e-mails, and credit cards are being monitored. They are also monitoring activities in mosques.” The newspaper said that U.S. leaders plan to start a war against Muslims and President Bush has started the crusades. Saudi Arabia’s “Al-Watan” newspaper on 8 October called on President Bush to respond to Falwell’s statement. The daily noted that after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush called for religious tolerance and he defended the American Muslim community. President Bush should reiterate his earlier rejection of “religious bigotry and extremism” and he should refute Falwell’s comments, according to the Saudi daily. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad took a reasoned position regarding Falwell’s comments: “They don’t understand anything, they don’t understand Islam.” “I’m not going to accuse all Christians, only one person made such statement,” he said according to the Bernama news agency, and he advised Muslims not to take the matter too seriously. Underlining the Malaysian prime minister’s advice, Falwell on 12 October apologized for his comments. “I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for [the 6 October edition of] CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims,” he said according to Reuters. “I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim,” (Bill Samii)
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