Let’s suppose that I interviewed David Duke, the Louisiana politician who rails against what he calls Jewish supremacy, and also interviewed the lunatic preacher who disrupted the funerals of American servicemen with his message of killing all the gays.
And let’s suppose I presented these men’s views as typical of American Christian thought.
You’d say, and rightly so, that these men are not representative of mainstream Christianity, much less mainstream America. Well, the same thing applies to Islam. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Broadcasting or reporting the words of a few extremists does not reflect mainstream Muslim thought.
Yellow journalism is never all right, but as long as it’s confined to celebrities and other nonimportant matters, it is at least not too harmful. But yellow journalism applied to national security and to foreign affairs should be considered unacceptable.
A number of irresponsible journalists and broadcasters, egged on by the crazy neocons, are trying to duplicate the mass fear of foreigners that characterized earlier times in America when demagogues spoke of the "yellow peril." Now demagogues speak of the "jihadi peril." And, as was inevitable, the demagoguery slips away from Muslim extremists and talks about Muslims and Islam as if there were no difference.
Yes, there are some Muslim extremists, just as there are some Christian extremists, Hindu extremists, Jewish extremists and so forth. Extremism is a personality disorder not confined to any one religion or political system. Anyone can become infected with it.
Islam has been around for more than 1,300 years. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful people, just like you and I, and they are not plotting to storm the citadels of the West. Muslim countries are full of universities, professors, poets, novelists, scientists and engineers. It was the Muslims who preserved the wisdom of the classical world and passed it on to the Europeans, thus making the Renaissance possible.
And there have been American Muslims since at least the late 1800s. Most of them so assimilated into American society that no one noticed them. They are as patriotic as any other American.
Most of the conflict in the Middle East — at least until we stirred the caldron in Iraq — is about secular matters, not religion. Hamas and Islamic Jihad oppose Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hezbollah opposes Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Even Osama bin Laden, if you bother to read what he says, opposes us on secular matters — support for Israel, the invasion of two Muslim countries and our massive military presence in the Persian Gulf.
The neocons would like to convince you that it is a war over religious matters so they won’t have to address the real causes, which are our own bad policies in that part of the world.
You should know that the wealthy powers in this world wouldn’t waste a dime on a religious conflict. It’s control of the world’s oil that interests them, and also the arms business. War to them is a profitable enterprise, especially since they and their children don’t have to fight the wars.
These elite almost panicked when communism collapsed. How could they maintain power and make money without an enemy at the gate? Then bin Laden gave them exactly what they wanted with the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Now they have an enemy so ill-defined, their "war on terror" can go on forever, provided they can keep the American public ignorant and ill-informed.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.