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2 Sep, 2007

CNN documentary paves the way for a wider global exploration of “God’s warriors”

Originally Published: 02 Sep 2007

The six-hour CNN documentary series, “God’s Warriors”, broadcast Aug 21-23 essentially proved right what Muslims have been long saying – that they are not the only “militants, extremists and zealots” in town.

When a “former Jewish terrorist” talks about his role in planting a car-bomb that blew away the legs of the Palestinian mayor of Nablus, and when the political fund-raising activities of Christian conservatives are exposed, the world has can no longer ignore the fact that both those religions have their hard-core fundamentalists who are just as threatening to the world order as Islamic fundamentalists.

While the reporter, Christiane Amanpour, has been quoted as saying that she is seeking to “explain” what drives these warriors, not judge them, the usage of the word “warrior” clearly suggests that a three-way “Holy War” indeed is in progress. By extension, it also means that there is in fact an ongoing “Clash of Civilisations”.

Taken a step further, the series asserts the veracity of two very fundamental Buddhist tenets: 1) The ‘cause-and-effect’ concept, the reality that establishing the cause is critical to finding a solution; and b) The middle path, the reality that solutions cannot be attained by sticking to hard-core views on either side of the spectrum but only by finding a live-and-let-live middle path.

As any medical doctor will tell you, the first and most important step in this direction is to establish the cause — expose the lies, myths and misconceptions that “Islamic terrorism” is the only kind of “terrorism” around.

The Islamic world has long been arguing that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is the root cause of the cancerous Middle East issue. When the CNN documentary interviews Jewish settlers, shows them reading from the Torah about being given the land by God, exposes their funding support and political activities, the Islamic world’s argument is proved manifestly true.

The Islamic world has also long argued the point about the influence of the Judeo-Christian fundamentalists on the American political establishment, and how that skews US foreign policy in an imbalanced way that only worsens the situation.

When an Orthodox Jew is shown stumping for money from evangelical Christians to support Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says, “Religion is instrumental in shaping ideas and policies. It’s an essential part of everyday life in a whole host of countries,” yet another one of the Islamic world’s arguments is proven true.

In fact, Ms Amanpour herself is quoted as saying in one of the interviews she gave about the series: “I had never inquired into the nuts and bolts of how Christian conservatives operate here in the U.S. We tend to look at them like some exotic subspecies, while they’re actually a huge segment of the population here. They have huge impact, and we can’t afford to treat them as a sort of loony fringe. I think that’s quite clear.”

That is quite an admission. If Ms Amanpour has “never inquired into the nuts and bolts of how Christian conservatives operate,” what took her (and CNN) so long? And what other subjects does the US media conveniently choose not to look into?

Perhaps it is time for the world to start watching a little more of Aljazeera to get an alternative perspective.

Although numerous scholarly works and articles have been written about monotheistic fundamentalism, the CNN documentary has given it visual impact, and sought to identify the key issues in the most understandable way possible.

That in itself is a triumphant step forward, especially for the millions who simply do not understand the complexities involved, and are thus most susceptible to the lie that “Islamic terrorism” is the central problem these days as well as other oft-touted lie that “Islam promotes violence.”

Anyone who watches the documentary will realise that if you occupy someone else’s land on the grounds that God gave it to you, can expect to face legitimate resistance from the thousands evicted and/or displaced to make way for the new occupants.

Differences aside, there are some areas of commonality. When a Christian “warrior” is seen talking about the role of the media in promoting a “toxic popular culture” of sex, drugs and alcohol amongst impressionable teenagers, I think there would be no mother on earth, regardless of her faith, who would disagree with that.

Overall, the documentary has done a great service to the cause of sifting fact from fiction. It proves true the incontrovertible fact that religion will continue to play a role in human life, long after even the most powerful of today’s countries and corporations have faded into history.

It also paves the way for a wider global exploration of religious forces. South Asia is another hotbed of fundamentalist forces and conflict. Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, Maoists in Nepal and the Naxalites in India have all been waging, both presently and in the past, some kind of “wars” with nationalistic or religious undertones.

None of them are Muslims. They, too, have killed and/or are still killing people by the hundreds, but don’t seem to attract the same attention as Muslims. Another curiosity well worth investigating.

Clearly, what is needed is much more debate, not less. And every effort to silence this debate must be vigorously and vociferously resisted and condemned.

This Tuesday (Sept 4), more debate is certain when Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard release a book called “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” which will further lend credence to the CNN documentary.

According to a synopsis, “Their thesis is that US endorsement of Israel is not fully explained by strategic or moral reasons, but by the pressure exerted by Jewish lobbyists, Christian fundamentalists, and neoconservatives with Zionist sympathies.

The result, according to the book, “is an unbalanced US foreign policy in the Middle East, the US invasion of Iraq, the threat of war with Iran or Syria, and a fragile security situation for the entire Western world.”

Not surprising, efforts to silence, smear and/or discredit them have already begun. Perhaps CNN now needs to investigate by whom and why!