Geert Wilders’ Islamophobia: Defying the Wisdom of Several US Presidents

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Abstract

Wilders has been on record saying,  ”I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam.” So, by his own admission he is an Islamophobe.  His hate-mongering in his recent book, Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me,  by collecting lies and half truths, knows no limits.  He has collected anything and everything negative about the Muslims and the way some of them practice Islam and completely  ignored positive, today and historically.  In so doing, he has created a polemic aimed at dividing humanity across the religious lines and affiliations, disregarding everything that joins all of us in our common humanity.

Practice and speeches of several US Presidents expose the extreme Islamophobic propaganda of Wilders.  President Bill Clinton made Muhammad Ali a former heavy weight boxing champion, a convert to Islam, inaugurate the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, by being the last link, in the Lighting of the Cauldron.  Clinton also credited Ali, who turned 70 this year, with helping pave the way for Barack Obama to become the country’s first black president.

President Clinton has at times, during his long political career, noted limitations of some Muslims and offered good advice.  However, unlike Wilders, through out his political career, he has not demeaned or stereotyped Muslims.

President Obama’s Cairo speech can be considered to be a landmark in recognizing Muslim heritage, which was denied by the Catholic Church and the scientific establishment for centuries, by a sitting USA President.  No wonder, Wilders also completely denies Muslim heritage, as he ignores any thing positive in favor of Islam.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid[1] is a New York Times Best Seller book written by Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1977–1981) and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. It was published by Simon and Schuster in November 2006.  This book is an apt refutation of Wilders’ extreme pro-Israel stance.

President Richard Nixon describes his rational stance towards the Muslims and Islam in his book, Seize the Moment: America’s Challenge in a One-Superpower World.  Wilders, nevertheless, in his recent book, chooses to criticize this tolerant and humane attitude of Nixon.

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Wilders has been on record saying,  ”I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam.” So, by his own admission he is an Islamophobe.  His hate-mongering in his recent book, Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me,  by collecting lies and half truths, knows no limits.  He has collected anything and everything negative about the Muslims and the way some of them practice Islam and completely  ignored positive, today and historically.  In so doing, he has created a polemic aimed at dividing humanity across the religious lines and affiliations, disregarding everything that joins all of us in our common humanity.

Wilders is guilty of consciously or unconsciously looking at the Muslims as the ‘alien’ and the ‘enemy’ and not as fellow human with strengths and weaknesses, as one who has aspirations, ambitions and vulnerabilities.  To explain this phenomenon let me introduce Karen Armstrong.  She has been a prolific writer and almost all her works are for enlightening mankind and bringing them together. In my opinion, her Magnum opus is her biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet.  A chapter in the book titled, Muhammad the Enemy, can bring the Christians and the Muslims together by promoting insight into some of the limitations of the past.  To share one quote from the book: “If we could view Muhammad as we do any other important historical figure we would surely consider him to be one of the greatest geniuses the world has known.”  For a more detailed excerpt from her book, click here.

Wilders refuses cooperation on common principles between the Muslims and others and wants to stereotype all of them with one brush and vilify them as evil, as communists and socialists were maligned during the cold war.  He fails to recognize the common observation that humans are not angels and in human relations we have to focus on our mutual goodness to build bridges and relations, as all wise people do and American Presidents have been doing for decades.  Now let me review some of the positive interaction of US Presidents with the Muslims and Islam.

President Bill Clinton made Muhammad Ali a former heavy weight boxing champion, a convert to Islam, inaugurate the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, by being the last link, in the Lighting of the Cauldron:

This year the President talked about Muhammad Ali Clay at some length:

Muhammad Ali’s talent, charisma and strong principles were responsible for raising boxing’s popularity across the world, according to former US president Bill Clinton.

Clinton also credited Ali, who turned 70 this year, with helping pave the way for Barack Obama to become the country’s first black president.

Muhammad Ali Clay

“He made millions of people believe. He was something unique,” said Clinton.

But Clinton believes his fellow American’s legacy will be the way he got the whole world talking about boxing again in the 1960s.

“People had moved away from boxing. It was a huge deal in America in the 1940s and 1950s and then they wrote it off,” he told BBC Sport boxing commentator Mike Costello.

“Then here comes Muhammad Ali, first as Cassius Clay, looking like a ballerina in the boxing ring – reminding people it was a sport.

“He made it exciting and meaningful again. He was entertaining and when he was younger he was always mouthing off. But it was part of his schtick.

“He made it part theatre, part dance and all power.”

Ali risked his glittering career, and his reputation, to oppose the Vietnam War . He refused to serve in the US Army when he was called up for service and was subsequently arrested for committing a felony.

Boxing authorities suspended his licence and stripped him of his titles before he was found guilty of the offence after a 1967 trial. The US Supreme Court reversed the conviction four years later.

“It could have destroyed him but it didn’t – because people realised he had been very forthright and he was prepared to pay the price for his convictions,” said Clinton. “On balance he won more admirers than detractors.”  Read further and watch video of President’s comments.

Incidentally, if enough people speak up against war and hate mongering of Geert Wilders, our Global Village will not be divided into two camps.

President Clinton has at times, during his long political career, noted limitations of some Muslims and offered good advice.  However, through out his political career, he has not demeaned or stereotyped Muslims.

In 2004, the Former US President Bill Clinton urged Saudi Arabia to push ahead with reforms, saying the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom could not fight the “tide of change.”

In a challenge to traditionalists in the birthplace of Islam, where women cannot drive and say they are marginalized, Clinton said if cars had been around 1,400 years ago Prophet Mohammad would have let his wife get behind the wheel.

“He probably would have made Saudi Arabia the first automobile producing nation on earth and put her in charge of the business,” Clinton told a conference in Saudi Arabia ‘s Red Sea city of Jeddah.

He was warmly applauded by women delegates, covered in black robes, or abayas.


In his last year in the White House, former US President Bill Clinton received a number of Muslims during Ramadan. At the meeting, which began with a reading from the Qur’an, Clinton used verses from the Qur’an in his own address and frequently stated his interest in Islam: And I thought it was particularly moving that Imam read the passage from the Koran that said that Allah created nations and tribes that we might know one another, not that we might despise one another. There’s a wonderful passage in the Hebrew Torah, which warns people never to turn aside the stranger, for it is like turning aside the most high God. And the Christian Bible says that people should love their neighbor as themselves. But it’s quite wonderful to say that Allah created the nations and tribes that they might know one another better… Let me say, also, that there is much that the world can learn from Islam. It is now practiced by one of every four people on Earth. Americans are learning more in our schools and universities. Indeed, I remember that our daughter took a course on Islamic history in high school and read large portions of the Koran, and came home at night and educated her parents about it, and later asked us questions about it… So I ask you again to rededicate yourselves in this coming year to making sure that others in this country truly understand and appreciate the faith you embrace, its practices, its beliefs, its precepts and its inclusive humanity… The Koran also teaches, in addition, to the fact that we should do unto others as we wish to have done to us, and reject for others what we would reject for ourselves, but we should also make a commitment to live in peace.

President Barrack Obama’s Cairo Address

Geert Wilders brings out this speech in the second chapter of his book and criticizes it, I will hope that the White House will refute the allegations, but, I want to quote some portions of Obama’s speech:

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

President Jimmy Carter

Geert Wilders extreme pro-Israel stance, in his recent book and in general, is antithesis of President Jimmy Carter’s life long work to secure peace in the Middle East.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid[1] is a New York Times Best Seller book written by Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1977–1981) and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. It was published by Simon and Schuster in November 2006.[2]

While President, Carter hosted talks between Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt that led to the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In this book Carter argues that “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East.”[3] That perspective, coupled with Apartheid in the titular phrase Peace Not Apartheid (which many regard as a subtitle) and allegations of errors and misstatements in the book, sparked criticism. Carter has defended his book and countered that response to it “in the real world…has been overwhelmingly positive.”[4]

The Documentary, “Jimmy Carter Man from Plains” (2007), explores the former President’s post-White House role in the Palestine Israel conflict. Academy Award – winning director Jonathan Demme reveals a complex individual who, with gusto and determination, travels the country to promote his book and to get his message across, even as that message creates great controversy.

According to Geert Wilders polarizing analysis, whatever goes wrong in Middle East or elsewhere is the fault of Islam and the Muslims, Carter’s book would give you a more honest and balanced view of affairs in Israel.

President Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon describes his rational stance towards the Muslims and Islam in his book, Seize the Moment: America’s Challenge in a One-Superpower World.  Geert Wilders criticizes Nixon’s rational and open stance towards the Muslims and Islam in the eighth chapter of his recent book, more about this later.

Epilogue

I will conclude this post with one or more video clips and a quote from President Thomas Jefferson:

Geert Wilders false attempts to link Islam with violence and conversion by sword can be refuted by a few observations about Christendom and the Islamic Empire and a quote from President Thomas Jefferson.  My constant premise has been that whereas some Muslims may be violent, Islam is a religion of peace.  India was a Hindu majority country, at the time of partition in 1947, after a thousand year of Muslim rule and Egypt was a Christian majority by Wilders own admission until the  thirteenth century, six centuries after Muslim rule.  Facts are hard things!  Wilders is entitled to his opinion but not his own facts.  It is a fact that Europe has never been able to brag such degree of religious tolerance and diversity until after the WWII.  In eighteenth century there was not a single Muslim to be found in Europe, a reality which took shape since the inquisitions of Spain in the fifteenth century, and there was no religion other than Christianity in Europe, except for a small Jewish minority, which Hitler aimed at wiping out in the twentieth century.   In previous centuries all the pagans had been converted to Christianity, many on the point of sword.  President Thomas Jefferson wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, for his opposition to the established churches and religious coercion: “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned.”[1] I rest my case until we meet again in a different post.

1.  President Thomas Jefferson.  Notes on the State of Virginia.  Ed. Frank Shuffelton.  New York Penguin Books, 1999.  Pages 163-167.

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  1. Faiths of the Founding Fathers
    The title of this comment is a book by David L Holmes and I am quoting from him regarding President Thomas Jefferson’s pure Unitarainism, which you can now find only in Islam, as understood by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:

    With the exceptions of Bishop Madison-whom he knew both from scientific investigation and from his work at William and Mary – and friends such as Charles Clay, Jefferson distrusted Trinitarian Christian clergy. He viewed most as enemies of the simple teachings of Jesus. As Jefferson saw it, rational empirical investigation determined what constituted reality. When viewed from this perspective, the Trinity was-in his words-“incomprehensible jargon,” “metaphysical insanity,” a “hocus-pocus phantasm of a god like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads,” a “deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign to Christianity as is that of Mahomet,” and “abracadabra.” Like other Deists, Jefferson viewed mystery as a disguise for absurdity. “I should as soon undertake to bring the crazy skulls of Bedlam to sound understanding,” he wrote to the Unitarian Benjamin Waterhouse, “as inculcate reason into that of an Athanasian.” In 1813, he wrote to John Adams: “It is too late in the day, for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three and the three are not one.”
    For this reason, Jefferson refused to serve as godfather for children of friends in Anglican baptisms, for godfathers had to profess a belief in what he viewed as the unreasonable doctrine of the Trinity. “The person who becomes sponsor for a child, according to the ritual of the Church in which I was educated,” Jefferson politely wrote to a friend who asked him to serve as a godparent in 1788, “makes a solemn profession before God and the world, of faith in the articles, which I had never sense enough to comprehend, and it has always appeared to me that comprehension must precede assent.” Jefferson believed in a Supreme Being who created and sustained the universe, but this was not the triune God of the Anglican and Episcopal tradition.
    Whether Jefferson would have formally left the church of his ancestors is unclear. He remains listed in many histories as an Epis-copalian rather than a Unitarian for the probable reason that Piedmont Virginia contained no Unitarian church. Unitarian societies were established in Baltimore, Georgetown, and the District of Columbia in the early part of the nineteenth century, but these cities were much too far from Monticello. When Jefferson lived in Philadelphia, how¬ever, he attended Joseph Priestley’s Unitarian church. In addition, in some famous correspondence with a Unitarian minister, he predicted that Unitarianism would soon sweep the nation:

    I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust there is not a young man now living who will not die an Unitarian.

    Like Adams, Jefferson would have fallen into the category of Unitarians who believed that Jesus was “from below.” But unlike some early Unitarians, he did not go beyond believing that Jesus became the moral example for humans while he was below. To him, Jesus was always a man. His view of Jesus contained no role for a virgin birth, incarnation, resurrection, miracles, or adoption into divine status.

    In his last years, Jefferson clearly moved toward a more traditional interpretation of Christianity. He valued Jesus as a person even more highly. Unlike some Deists, he came to believe in prayer and in a life after death. But belief in an afterlife and in a God who hears prayer were standard Unitarian beliefs of the time. Holding them did not move him into the category of orthodoxy.[1]

    I do not approve of the black and white thinking in, “either you are with us or with the terrorists.” On a lighter note, however, the only black and white way of thinking I will condone, will be my way of categorizing Muslims and Christians. If you think like a Unitarian, like Jefferson did, have inability to defend Trinity and have a hard time conceptualizing dual natured Jesus, as presented by Trinitarian Christianity, then you are a Muslim and not a Christian! Even though you did not discover it until today.

    1. Prof. David L Holmes. Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Oxford, 2006. Pages 87-88.

  2. Relying on presidents is not much of an argument since it is all about politics and making friends. The USA and Obama are best friends of the Saudis although they are the worst country in regards to human rights. With that logic Saudi Arabia is one of the best countrys just because the hypocritical USA like it. Russia is much better, even if also no democracy, than Saudiarabia but is constantly criticised by the US due to political and economical reasons. Iran is the evil guy for the west and the US. Yes they kill apostates and hang homosexuals but this a lot of other muslim countrys also do and still are the best friends of the west. Its all about politics and not values or thruth.

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