October 5, 2002
BUM RAP:Jerry Falwell calls Islam's prophet a `terrorist' in television interview (RICHARD N. OSTLING, 10/03/02, AP)
The Rev. Jerry Falwell says "I think Muhammad was a terrorist" in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on the CBS television program "60 Minutes."
The conservative Baptist minister tells correspondent Bob Simon he has concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that Islam's prophet "was a violent man, a man of war."
"Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses," Falwell says. "I think Muhammad set an opposite example." [...]
"I've said often and many places that most Muslims are people of peace and want peace and tranquility for their families and abhor terrorism," Falwell said. "Islam, like most faiths, has a fringe of radicals who carry on bloodshed wherever they are. They do not represent Islam."
One might prefer that he'd not used the loaded term "terrorist", though it sounds like the question he was asked used the word, but it's difficult to see how anyone can argue with the Reverend Falwell's point. In fact, our foremost expert on the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, has argued that the phenomenon of Muslim military might at its foundation is one of the contributing factors in its difficulty accepting a modern world where it is relatively weak militarily:
For centuries the world view and self-view of Muslims seemed well grounded. Islam represented the greatest military power on earth--its armies, at the very same time, were invading Europe and Africa, India and China. It was the foremost economic power in the world, trading in a wide range of commodities through a far-flung network of commerce and communications in Asia, Europe, and Africa; importing slaves and gold from Africa, slaves and wool from Europe, and exchanging a variety of foodstuffs, materials, and manufactures with the civilized countries of Asia. It had achieved the highest level so far in human history in the arts and sciences of civilization. Inheriting the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle East, of Greece, and of Persia, it added to them new and important innovations from outside, such as use and manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India. It is difficult to imagine modern literature or science without one or the other. It was in the Islamic Middle East that Indian numbers were for the first time incorporated in the inherited body of mathematical learning. From the Middle East they were transmitted to the West, where they are still known as Arabic numerals, honoring not those who invented them but those who first brought them to Europe. To this rich inheritance scholars and scientists in the Islamic world added an immensely important contribution through their own observations, experiments, and ideas. In most of the arts and sciences of civilization, medieval Europe was a pupil and in a sense a dependent of the Islamic world, relying on Arabic versions even for many otherwise unknown Greek works. [...]
In the course of the twentieth century it became abundantly clear in the Middle East and indeed all over the lands of Islam that things had indeed gone badly wrong. Compared with its millennial rival, Christendom, the world of Islam had become poor, weak, and ignorant. In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the primacy and therefore the dominance of the West was clear for all to see, invading the Muslim in every aspect of his public and--more painfully-even his private life.
That Mr. Lewis is a revered scholar while Mr. Falwell is derided seems more a function of politics than of anything they're saying. Posted by Orrin Judd at October 5, 2002 11:33 AM