On August 22, CNN aired Part Two, “God’s Muslim Warriors,” of its 3 part series, “God’s Warriors,” hosted by Christiane Amanpour. While much of the program was informative and fair (in contrast to the propagandistic nature of Part One,”God’s Jewish Warriors”), there were serious flaws and glaring omissions, which are described below. Among the most important shortcomings, extremist Muslim beliefs and practices were often minimized and many of the key causes for the spread of Muslim supremacist beliefs went unexplored.
Since so much of Part One was devoted to the influence of pro-Israel activists in America, it was very striking that Amanpour utterly neglected to report on the powerful Oil Lobby, primarily Saudi-backed, and numerous other Muslim organizations seeking to influence American public opinion and foreign policy decisions.
There was a noticeably gentler and more cordial tone toward Muslim extremists in contrast to the often snide and hectoring tone displayed toward pro-Israel Americans and Israeli settlers in “God’s Jewish Warriors.” In “God’s Muslim Warriors,” Amanpour included two apolitical segments with appealing devout Muslim women who talked about why they wear a head covering and how Islam enriches their lives. No such apolitical segment about devout Jews appeared in “God’s Jewish Warriors.”
A Comparison: “God’s Jewish Warriors” vs. “God’s Muslim Warriors”
“God’s Muslim Warriors” provided an informative look at various segments of the Muslim world, how they view and practice their faith, their thoughts on women’s rights and the role of religion in government, how some Muslims seek to bring about the return of the Caliphate — a Muslim theocracy — and how some Muslims are inspired to commit violence to further their religious goals. There were several Muslims interviewed who spoke out against the Islamist extremism and the danger it poses to moderate Muslims and to the West, and Amanpour did mention that these people now had to have constant protection against attacks from extremists.
The 3-part series,”God’s Warriors,” is ostensibly about the growing number of people around the world who center their life around their religious beliefs and how they want religious law to be the law of the land. Amanpour introduced the series with:
Over the last 30 years, each faith has exploded into a powerful political force, with an army of followers who share a deep dissatisfaction with modern, secular society and a fierce determination to bring God and religion back into daily life, back to the seat of power. We call them “God’s Warriors.”
Since there are very few Jews who are known to want to create a modern day theocracy based on Jewish law, one would assume that would leave Amanpour with a lot of time to explore the beliefs, practices and life stories of devout Jews, just as she did with Muslims; or perhaps to discuss the tensions between religious and secular Jews in Israel regarding religious influence on marriages, divorces and Sabbath activities. One would assume wrongly. What is most striking about “God’s Muslim Warriors” vs. “God’s Jewish Warriors,” is the different way Amanpour approaches the two programs. In the “Jewish Warriors”, Amanpour focuses primarily on:
• Blaming Israeli West Bank settlements (and their supporters, called “Jewish warriors” repeatedly by Amanpour) for the violence and discord in the Middle East and even for “inflaming Muslims worldwide,” despite the fact that organized Muslim terror attacks against Jews (and moderate Muslims) began in 1920, long before there were any settlements in the West Bank. Long segments are devoted to discussing the settlements’ alleged illegality under international law and how Jews who support or live in the settlements are allegedly defying international law. Though authorities such as former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Meir Shamgar and other international legal experts consider them legal, there is no alternative legal expert cited.
• Focusing on tiny fringe groups and the few individual Jews who pursued terrorism. They are so few in number that Amanpour had to do stories on people who were involved in terror long ago and have since renounced violence or on individuals who planned an unsuccessful attack. Since these few Jewish terrorists are so widely condemned by the settlers themselves and Jews worldwide, one wonders why she felt this topic was relevant.
• Presenting American pro-Israel activists as allegedly all-powerful scheming bullies, distorting U.S. foreign policy contrary to American interests and ganging up on anyone who criticizes Israel.
Meanwhile, in “God’s Muslim Warriors,” even though Muslim extremists number in the millions and there have been thousands of terror attacks by Muslims across the globe, Amanpour provides very little context on the scope of the violence. A few terrorist attacks are highlighted, similar to the few terrorist attacks that were highlighted in Part One.
She has playful discussions with spokesmen of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. She points out that they are striving to create a theocracy, but says they are non-violent and makes no mention that they are deeply anti-Semitic, anti-American and support terror attacks on Israelis and violence against Americans in Iraq.
In Part One, Amanpour refers again and again — 22 times — to “Jewish warriors,” clearly a pejorative term in the context of the series. The effect is striking, even jarring, as viewers are reminded time and again that there are distinctly Jewish warriors who present a threat to the world — expansionists whose “settlements have inflamed much of the Muslim world.” (Never mind that among those labeled a “Jewish warrior” is Chanan Porat, a religious Jew residing in the West Bank who explicitly states that “religious belief as a fuel for violence is wrong.”)
Amanpour also freely uses the term “warriors” in Part Two of the series, but with a difference; she much less frequently directly pairs “warrior” with “Muslim.” Thus, while Amanpour harps on “Jewish warriors,” repeating the phrase 22 times in the first episode, she refers to “Muslim warriors” just five times in the second program. Why does she utter the words “Jewish warrior” more than five times more often than “Muslim warrior” when violent Muslims have inflicted thousands of times more death and destruction in the world than violent Jews have?
Amanpour devotes two segments (one each) to two young Muslim women who are not described as being involved in anything political, who simply speak about why they wear a head covering, and how Islam enriches their lives. There is no such segment in the Jewish episode.
What would have been an appropriate counter-part to American Muslim Rehan Seyam speaking about how her hijab is a public statement of her faith and her belief in the importance of modesty? Perhaps an American Jewish man talking about why he wears a kippah and how Judaism enriches his life. Or a Jewish woman who wears modest clothing, covers her hair and finds comfort and spiritual meaning in her religion.
And in contrast to the huge focus on the so-called “Israel Lobby” in “God’s Jewish Warriors,” in “God’s Muslim Warriors,” Amanpour doesn’t mention the powerful O il Lobby operating in America and advocating for Muslim, Arab and Palestinian perspectives. She doesn’t highlight any of the numerous activist Muslim/Arab organizations that lobby and propagandize to influence American public opinion and foreign policy.
Related to this is the minimal discussion or outright omission of several key factors in the rise of Islamist extremism and increased support for terror:
• Thousands of Saudi-funded mosques and schools built worldwide, including many in the U.S., that spread an extreme supremacist form of Islam. Saudi Arabia has also funded extremist training for those who want to work as Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military and the U.S. prison system.
• Saudi-funded Middle East Studies chairs and departments in universities all over the world, including the U.S.
• Saudi-funded organizations whose goal is to provide American elementary, middle and high schools with slanted curricula and books about the history of the Middle East and Islam
• Saudi-funded student activists and organizations that indoctrinate and propagandize against Israel, the U.S. and for extreme Islamist causes.
• Extremist websites, online videos, and satellite TV networks that foster Muslim supremacist values and support for terrorism among Muslims across the globe.
Instead of examining any of the above reasons for the spread of Muslim extremism, Amanpour includes two highly questionable explanations: reactions to alleged Israeli brutality and feelings of hopelessness. She commendably does mention repressive Arab/Muslim governments as a factor, but doesn’t note how these same governments often intentionally use propaganda to fan the flames of hatred for Israel and the West to deflect attention away from their repressive regimes.
While overall, “God’s Muslim Warriors” is informative and covers a number of vital topics, there are several flaws:
• Amanpour’s description of the Muslim Brotherhood as non-violent: “But the group has now officially renounced violence and today’s Supreme Guide claims it was never condoned.”
But this isn’t true. According to translations of articles by MEMRI, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Muhammad Mahdi Othman Akef stated “…the bombings in Palestine and Iraq are a [religious] obligation. This is because these two countries are occupied countries, and the occupier must be expelled in every way possible. Thus, the [Muslim Brotherhood] movement supports martyrdom operations in Palestine and Iraq in order to expel the Zionists and the Americans.” “If the gates of Jihad in Palestine open before the [Muslim] Brotherhood, we will not hesitate a single moment, and we will be with them on the battlefield.” “In Israel, there should be no [differentiation between] a civilian and a member of the military. All are enemies of the Arab homeland and of Islam. They are occupiers and have no right to one handsbreadth of the land of Palestine.” “We have no relations with the U.S. It is a Satan that abuses the region, lacking all morality and law.” (Memri Special Dispatch Series #655, Feb 4, 2004) Akef has also stated that the Holocaust is “a myth.” (BBC News, Dec 23, 2005)
• Lack of examination of how widespread support for terrorism is in the Muslim world (other than a mention of one poll about American Muslims). Amanpour says, “Muslims, like people everywhere, abhor terrorism. The small minority who resort to violence is symptomatic of something many of us have failed to understand.”
While it would certainly be accurate and fair to say that not all Muslims support terror, it is questionable to imply that all Muslims “abhor terrorism” and a small number are compelled to “resort” to violence. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll published on July 24, 2007, the percentage of those surveyed in predominantly Muslim countries who agreed that “suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified” ranged from only 6% (Palestinian Authority) to 77% (Indonesia). That leaves a significant number of Muslims who don’t appear to “abhor terrorism.” After all, most of the winning candidates in the most recent Palestinian legislative election are members of Hamas, a terrorist organization. And who can forget the Palestinians who celebrated in the streets when America was attacked on 9/11? Amanpour herself notes that if Egypt were to hold elections today, the Muslim Brotherhood would “win, hands down”. And the Brotherhood praises the terrorists murdering Jews in Israel.
• There was also a lack of appropriate follow-up to some inaccurate or highly questionable statements, such as that made by Taji Mustafa, spokesperson for Hizb Ut-Tahrir, an Islamist organization:
“Under Islamic rule, under the caliphate, there was stability even in Palestine. Jews, Christians, Muslims lived in harmony under an Islamic political order.”
Under Islamic rule, non-Muslims often lived a life of severe discrimination, humiliation and fear. While some years were more peaceful than others, violence against Jews was a constant thread in the fabric of life under Islamic rule. Discrimination included being forced to wear a special tag on their clothing identifying them as non-Muslims, paying a special tax required of non-Muslims, deferring to Muslims in all situations, such as moving off the sidewalk into the dung-filled street if a Muslim approached where they were walking. In court, the testimony of a Muslim would always be accepted over that of a non-Muslim. For more information and compelling accounts of the hardships suffered by Jews under Muslim rule, click here.
For CAMERA’s initial analysis of “God’s Jewish Warriors”, click here.
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