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Speech at the UN seminar on Islamophobia in 2004
- We find statements by religious, polital leaders and the media that incite Islamophobia. I'm going to give you some, otherwise we wind up talking in very true but general statements. And I think we need to hear the actual words, because these are the words that people, who are in churches, people who are watching the media, hear. And if they don't have a context within which to place them, they will draw us out of conclusions. While George Bush and Tony Blair may distinguish between Islam and extremism, Franklin Graham tells us that "Islam is a very evil religion. All the values that we as a nation hold dear, they don't share those same values at all … these countries that have the majority of Muslims." You might think of Franklin Graham as an individual, but if you are in the Muslim world, you know that Franklin Graham gave the invocation at the first inauguration of president Bush, that Franklin Graham a year and a half later was asked to speak on Good Friday at the Pentagon. That sends a signal. Pat Robertson: "This man [Muhammad] was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic, he was a robber and a brigand. And to say that these terrorists distort Islam … they are carrying out Islam. I mean: This man [Muhammed] was a killer and to think that this is a peaceful religion is fraudulent." Benny Hinn at a pro-Israel rally: "This not a war between Arabs and the Jews, this is between God and the devil." And there are many others.
- While Islamophobia like anti-Semitism is centuries old, it too will not be eradicated easily or soon. Therefore we all have a critical role to play: Government policy makers, educational institutions and the media, religious and political leaders, educators, media people, believers and unbelievers, the private and public sectors and international organisations like the UN are charged today to address and promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialog to build a world based upon a modern notion of tolerance, that is grounded in mutual understanding and respect for others. For the end of the day Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance know no religious, racial, tribal or national bounderies or limits. The message at the end of the day is simple and clear: Islam is not the enemy, religious extremism is.
- Speech at the UN seminar "Confronting Islamophobia: Education for Tolerance and Understanding" in December 2004