In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Rev. Jerry Falwell said his characterization of Islam’s prophet Muhammad as a terrorist in a segment on the next edition of “60 Minutes” was not intended to antagonize Muslim people.
“I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough, by both Muslims and non-Muslims, [to decide] that he was a violent man, a man of war,” Falwell tells interviewer Bob Simon, according to a CBS promo of the program to be aired this Sunday night.
“My intent was not to attack Muhammad,” Falwell told WND yesterday. “I have avoided that. But [Simon] was pressing me on the issue of Muhammad’s behavior, his involvement in war, and I simply said what I do believe, that Muhammad is not a good example for most Muslim people.”
One of the most outspoken and controversial Islamic political action groups in the United States immediately issued a statement on Falwell’s comments, which gained wide attention through the Drudge Report yesterday.
“What concerns us the most is the complete failure of mainstream religious and political leaders to repudiate this kind of anti-Muslim hate speech,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, in Washington, D.C. “On the issue of bigotry, silence equals consent.”
Falwell told WND, in response to the inevitable backlash from Muslim groups, that his comments were not directed at the Muslim people.
“I do not believe for a moment that the vast majority of Muslims are terrorists,” said the Baptist pastor, chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia and a WorldNetDaily columnist. “I think just the opposite. Muslims have radical extremists just like every religious group does, who do not represent them very well. I think Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein are prime examples of those kinds of radicals.”
Muslim people are good people, Falwell said.
“The Muslim people genuinely want peace for their families, who want an end to all the terrorism,” he told WND.
‘Ridiculed by ignorant people’
CAIR’s Hooper said that Muhammad, “like the prophets Noah, Moses and Jesus, were all attacked and ridiculed by ignorant people who sought to silence their message about the oneness of God.”
“These defamatory attacks did not work then, and they will not work now,” Hooper said.
Falwell noted that the questions “60 Minutes” asked about Muhammad came in the context of a lengthy interview conducted during the summer on why most evangelical Christians support the state of Israel.
“In the process of the interview [Simon] asked what I thought about Muhammad,” Falwell explained. ‘I said I have read both Muslim and non-Muslim biographers on Muhammad – of course he lived hundreds of years ago – but they all seem to uniformly agree that he was a man of war and man of violence. And today he would probably be associated with Arafat and Saddam Hussein as a terrorist. Killing people didn’t bother him.
Falwell said he told Simon that Jesus and Moses stood in contrast to that.
“Their’s was a model of love,” he said. “So I would say that you cannot equate Islam with Christianity and Judaism.”
In his statement, Hooper “encouraged people of all faiths to read objective books about the prophet Muhammad so that they will not be vulnerable to anti-Muslim rhetoric and stereotypes.”
The CAIR spokesman also recommended that American libraries make sure they are a part of his group’s “Library Project” to “give readers access to fair and balanced materials about Islam.”
Falwell emphasized that he hasn’t read any biography that disagrees with his assessment of Muhammad.
Last summer, Falwell defended Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Vines of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., who declared at the denomination’s convention that Muhammad was a “demon-possessed pedophile” and that Islam teaches the destruction of all non-Muslims.
Falwell said Vines, who once served as Southern Baptist Convention president, based his statement on passages from the Hadith, revered by Muslims as the sayings of Muhammad. Volume 1, book 1, chapter 1 shows that Muhammad himself believed he was under demonic influence. Another Hadith passage says Islam’s prophet married a 9-year-old girl.
In response to Vines’ remarks, CAIR called on President Bush and Christian and Jewish leaders to repudiate the “hate-filled, Islamophobic” remarks.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad once worked for the Islamic Association of Palestine, considered by U.S. intelligence officials to be a front group for Hamas operating in the United States. CAIR’s leaders, including Hooper, have gone on record with their ultimate hope of the U.S. becoming a Muslim country.
The CBS news program Sunday night also includes an interview with one of the leading evangelical supporters of Israel, Ed McAteer, dubbed “godfather of the religious right” by the Washington Post.
McAteer told WorldNetDaily that he “wouldn’t disagree” with Falwell’s assessment of Islam’s prophet.
Muhammad was instrumental in the development of “children killing themselves for the sake of what his followers” believe, McAteer said.
“He laid the foundation for what’s happening in Jerusalem now,” said McAteer, who helped launch the Moral Majority in the late 1970s.