Evangelicals back Palestinian statehood Tancredo threatens Mecca
By Dr Anthony McRoy
There’s good news and bad news from America. First, the good news: over thirty leading US Evangelical Christians (among them, Harold Vogelaar, Director, Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice) sent a letter to President Bush “to correct a serious misperception among some people including some US policymakers that all American evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution and creation of a new Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, who sign this letter, represent large numbers of evangelicals throughout the US who support justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.” The letter goes on to assert that “Historical honesty compels us to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine’ and urge that ‘the US must provide robust leadership within the Quartet to reconstitute the Middle East roadmap, whose full implementation would guarantee the security of the State of Israel and the viability of a Palestinian State.”
There is often a perception among Arabs and Muslims that Evangelical Christians, especially those in America, are monolithically pro-Zionist extremists – a mirror image perhaps, of Western popular prejudices that “all Muslims are terrorist”. It is extremely tiresome to read both in the Muslim press and indeed, in the mainstream media that “Evangelicals are the strongest supporters of Israeli policy”, a statement that is nearly always made without the qualification that this refers really to a group of vocal and well-organised lobbyists who are a minority among Evangelicals. Significantly, the Council for American-Islamic Relations have taken note of the letter and publicised the fact. An American Evangelical friend of mine has informed that the letter has received a great deal of attention in the USA. Hopefully Muslims will pay equal attention, and acknowledge that Evangelical Christians are not the Anti-Arab bigots that they frequently imagine them to be.
The ‘New York Times’ article about the letter quoted Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida as stating: “There is a part of the evangelical family which is what I call Christian Zionists, who are just so staunchly pro-Israel that Israel and their side can do no wrong, and it’s almost anti-Biblical to criticise Israel for anything. But there are many more evangelicals who are really open and seek justice for both parties.” The article also quoted one of the signatories, Ronald Sider, as saying that: “he and three other evangelical leaders got the idea for the letter in February at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, where they met Muslim and American diplomats who were shocked to discover the existence of American evangelicals who favoured a Palestinian state.” Mr. Sider says they will translate the letter into Arabic and distribute it in the Middle East and Europe. “We think it’s crucial that the Muslim world realise that there are evangelical Christians in the US in large numbers that want a fair solution,” Mr. Sider said.”
Now for the bad news. Readers may remember that two years ago I reported the comments of Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo that if America faced another Al-Qaida attack she should bomb Mecca and Medina. On 31 July this year, Tancredo, who is seeking the Republican nomination, reiterated his call in an Iowa meeting: ‘If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina… Because that’s the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do.’
The remarks brought strong reaction from the State Department, as demonstrated by a note from the US Embassy in response to my query, quoting State Department spokesman Sean McCormick on Tancredo: “Look, he will say what he will and we’ll respond as the US Government. The remarks are simply outrageous. He’ll have to account for his own remarks and explain the reasons behind them. But it’s important for people abroad, who may not necessarily pay attention to the details and just hear a headline with that in it, that the official position of the United States Government is that those remarks are just outrageous.”
Tancredo’s remarks are a classic case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. One wonders if Tancredo is aware that the Kaaba was destroyed in 929 by the Qarmatians, but Islam as a religion – and jihad as a practice – did not end. Indeed, in terms of offensive as opposed to defensive jihad, the last land-based action against the West occurred with the Siege of Vienna in 1683! The Crusaders destroyed the Islamic sites in the holy city of Jerusalem, but jihad actually accelerated. He also ignores the Islamic concept of ‘niyyah’ – intention – which would allow Muslims to continue praying in the direction of the Kaaba even if it were destroyed. Moreover, there is a prediction in the Hadith of the destruction of the Kaaba by hostile elements: Narrated by AbuHurayrah, Sahih Al-Bukhari 2.661 ‘The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Dhus-Suwayqatayn (Literally: One with two lean legs) from Ethiopia will demolish the Ka’bah.” Thus bombing Mecca will have no deterrent effect whatsoever.
What it would do is to permanently poison US-Muslim relations, lead to massive recruitment for Al-Qaida, and guarantee more severe attacks on the US homeland. Far from deterring Al-Qaida, paradoxically it would immensely strengthen the group. One final thought: on Tancredo’s logic, the British government should have responded to IRA terrorism by bombing the Knock shrine to Mary in Co. Mayo or even the Vatican! Will Tancredo now advocate this? Don’t hold your breath!