Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Welcome to the No Fact Zone

I attended a talk the other night at Bethel College, an evangelical college in the South Bend area. The title was “Unmasking Terrorism,” and advertisements promised I’d be hearing from a Palestinian-former-terrorist-turned-evangelical-Christian. So it seemed like the kind of thing that would be worth checking out.

The talk that followed however, given by one Walid Shoebat, truly shocked me. I was appalled. An evening that started with vanilla praise music quickly turned into a hate-fest that had me thinking of 1984. It was horrifying; in fact, I was reminded of the Old Latin version of Psalm 95/96: “The gods of the heathens are demons.” What went on at Bethel truly put me in mind of the demonic. They were saying the name “Jesus,” but the God they described was something hideous and malformed.

The talk also put me in mind of Steven Colbert’s “No Fact Zone.” I always figured he was exaggerating the Right’s tendency to color everything with ideology (which can of course also be said of the Left). I didn’t realize he was describing certain people’s tendency to spread vicious half-truths and lies. Specifically…

Among Mr. Shoebat’s claims throughout the night were the following points (please note that these claims are written as they were communicated during his talk—he might present things differently in writing, but this was the content as heard in the audience):

  • All terrorists are Muslims; there are no Christian or atheistic terrorists. At all. Anywhere in the world. When confronted with the example of Northern Ireland, he said, “There is no longer terrorism in Ireland.”
  • Arabs had only been living in (or perhaps ruling, he used ambiguous language) Israel/Palestine for a total of 100 years prior to the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
  • Until 1948, the Zionist movement carried out the acquisition and settlement of land in Israel/Palestine entirely peacefully, without the use of arms or any kind of coercion.

Meanwhile, his plan for dealing with international Islamic extremism and terrorism seemed to be as follows:

  • Begin closing mosques. He definitely advocated the forcible closure of mosques in the US and Europe, and as far as I can recall he hinted that this would be appropriate for the Middle East as well.
  • Send Christian missionaries to the Middle East to accompany American troops. I’m drawing this from a comparison he made between a drug-infested neighborhood and the Middle East. He said that one doesn’t send Harvard professors to a drug-infested neighborhood to solve its problems. One sends ministers and Christian community workers and armed police. He emphasized that the police had to be armed. He left the audience to draw its own conclusions about how his metaphor applied to the Middle East. I think it was obvious what he was suggesting.

Most disturbing of all were the “Amen”s that came from the audience now and then as Mr. Shoebat poured out his hatred.

I don’t really know what to do in response to this kind of stuff. I’d try to bring up the excellent points the Pope made in his Regensburg address about faith and reason, but I’m afraid his quote from that Byzantine text would just encourage them. Sigh…


At October 10, 2006 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think the point of this speech was? Do you think people learned anything? Was it just about turning moderates into extremists? An occasion to enjoy stewing in one's hatred?

At October 11, 2006 6:57 AM, Blogger Bede the Venerable said...

It seemed to be an opportunity for people to have their worst fears about Islam and terrorism confirmed by someone claiming to be both a former Muslim and former terrorist.

It might have been about turning moderates into extremists. I hadn't really thought of that--I could certainly see someone who didn't know much about Islam or international terrorism coming away chagrined that they hadn't made the connection Mr. Shoebat kept hammering away at: the root of terrorism is Islam.

Really, it was a terrible way to spend an evening. To say the very, very least.

At November 25, 2006 11:46 AM, Blogger Cuckoo Susan James said...

I cannot express enough of how irritating this kind of interpretation raging among many right-wing Christians is. Maybe now we can understand some of the frustration moderate and sincere Moslems face when they have to deal with their own extreme wings.


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