By Matthew Duss
In its mission statement, On Faith is described as a forum for “intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation… about faith and its implications in a way that sheds light rather than generates heat.” Even if undertaken the most careful manner, debates about religious faith and its place in American civic life are bound to provoke heated responses.
On Faith contributor Jordan Sekulow has, however, been neither respectful nor careful in his posts, particularly those posts concerning the Islamic faith. I was therefore surprised and disappointed to see that he has now been awarded his own blog on the On Faith site.
In a post emblematic of his approach, Sekulow recently claimed, “Muslim political leaders have forfeited their seat at the discussion table.” How is this in keeping with On Faith’s mission? And did Sekulow’s friend Pat Robertson “forfeit his seat at the discussion table” when he joined fellow cleric Jerry Falwell in blaming American secularism for the September 11 attacks?
Sekulow has used a number of his On Faith posts to promote the “threat of Sharia law,” which in reality is nothing more than a 21st Century version of McCarthyism. Sharia is a collective term for a scripturally based code of Muslim conduct, many details of which Islamic scholars and communities differ across the world. Treating it a fixed, monolithic body of law is neither intelligent nor informed. In a recent post, Sekulow warned, “Sharia law is creeping into America’s judicial system.” Tellingly, his lone piece of evidence was a New Jersey court decision that was quickly reversed on appeal.
Some of Sekulow’s most careless writings have been on the proposed Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan, which he offensively condemned, without a shred of proof, as “a $100 million dollar monument to radical Islam.” Sekulow also smeared the Park 51 congregation’s leader Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf – a man who has worked closely with the FBI on the problem of domestic radicalization — as “a radical Imam who is committed to bringing Sharia law to the United States.”
Unable to cite evidence of Park 51’s ties to extremism, Sekulow offered only innuendo: “The truth is that when we scratch the surface on who is financing major Islamic projects around the world, it becomes evident that many financiers are tied to terrorism and the promotion of radical Islam.”
Speaking at a September 11 rally protesting the Islamic Center (which, like event organizer Pamela Geller, he refers to as a “shrine to terror“), Sekulow declared, “Imam Rauf, America rejects you!” I have to ask: For which America was Sekulow presuming to speak? Certainly not the America that elected George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whose administrations sent Imam Rauf as an overseas representative of the United States, to testify to Muslims around the world to America’s commitment to religious freedom and tolerance (Sekulow would do well to take notes).
Particularly troubling was the fact that Sekulow shared the stage that day with far-right Dutch anti-Islam activist Geert Wilders, who regularly derides the Islamic faith as “the ideology of a retarded culture.”
As for how the U.S. government regards Wilders, a recently leaked cable from the State Department in the Netherlands was unequivocal: “Wilders is no friend of the U.S.”; “he foments fear and hatred of immigrants.”
Reporting on Wilders’ appearance at the rally, journalist Michelle Goldberg observed, “A new type of religious bigotry has entered American politics, one more blatant than anything we’ve seen since the Twin Towers fell.” Such bigotry should not have a friend at the Washington Post.
Matthew Duss is a researcher at the Center for American Progress.