- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

I don't quite know what to make of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's most recent venture into biblical history. On the television program "60 Minutes" a few weeks ago, the reverend said that "I think Mohammed was a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life. He was a violent man, a man of war. Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. And I think Mohammed set an opposite example."
A few days later in Bombay, India, five persons were killed and 47 injured when Hindus and Muslims rioted during a Muslim general strike to protest Mr. Falwell's accusation about Mohammed. A few days after that Mr. Falwell apologized in the following curious language: "I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for the Sept. 30 edition of CBS's '60 Minutes' were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims. I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim."
A number of senior Muslim leaders accepted his apology. But his statements are being shown all over the Muslim world as evidence of America's alleged war on Islam. If the casualty list caused by Mr. Falwell's idiotic and repulsive statement is limited to five, we will be very lucky. His statement was bad biblical history and appallingly worse politics. President Bush has spent the last year desperately trying to limit our war on terror to the terrorists, and not letting it slide into a war of civilizations: Judeo-Christian vs. Muslim. That strikes me as a bloody good idea.
And just as many of us have pointedly observed how few Muslims came out to condemn Osama bin Laden after his murderous attacks on America, I feel obliged to point out how few American conservatives have come out to condemn Mr. Falwell's statement (not that their acts were morally equivalent, of course one killed 3,000, the other insulted the religion of a fifth of mankind). As a longtime conservative and strong supporter of Mr. Bush's war on terrorism and Iraq, and as one who has fought on the same side of the political barricade as Mr. Falwell for the past quarter-century, permit me to proffer my condemnation.
First of all, the reverend's biblical history stinks. Moses set the example for love? In Exodus 2 verse 11, it is written that "Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." And again in Exodus 32 verses 25-29, after Moses came down from Mt. Sinai he saw his fellow Hebrews running wild and making a golden calf. He asked the sons of Levi to gather round him with their swords and told them: " 'Each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.' The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. Moses said, 'Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord.' "
But Moses was no terrorist. He was select of God. He was the great law-giver. He led his people out of bondage. And he acted under divine injunction. We should be careful about selecting pieces of Muslim history or of the Koran and making insulting and extravagant assertions based on those abstractions. There is a lot of blood and murder in Judeo-Christian history and not nearly all of it was performed by pagans. The slightest glance at history should make it obvious that anything touched by man will also be touched by blood regardless of race, creed, religion or nation of origin.
Not only was Mr. Falwell's statements foolish and hurtful, but his apology was incredible. "I intended no disrespect." Of course he did. Mohammed talked with Allah, just as Moses talked with Jehovah. They both are believed by their faithful to have acted pursuant to the Lord's instructions. When one reviles a prophet, one reviles the god for whom he speaks.
But Mr. Falwell is not a bad man. I know him slightly, having been in some meetings and on many television shows with him. He has always seemed to me to be sincere, thoughtful, kind and possessed of a broad knowledge of the Bible. It is the times we live in that are at fault. Tolerance is easy when it is little more than indifference. But now when the battle lines are forming, blood has begun to flow in the streets, and we search with squinted eye for real enemies we have become gripped by our most atavistic passions and fundamental beliefs. We are no longer modern men, and we no longer live in modern times.
We seem to be entering a period that might better be described as biblical in its nature a time of plagues, tribal struggle and slaughter. And I fear it will be a long climb out to renewed tolerance and the peace that it breeds.

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