I was leaving the US Congress after a discussion about President Bush’s State of the Union address, which I had the privilege of attending the previous night, when I saw her.
She was a beautiful, lovely lady in her early 60s and looked great in her elegant, black and red European-style dress. So was her husband in his classic black suit and red-ribboned hat.
I asked if they would kindly take a group photo with me and a couple of fellow Arab journalists invited by the National Democratic Institute to attend the 110th Congress convention. They happily obliged. Then the lady recognized me. As it turned out, she read and wrote me frequently for years.
After some hesitation, she revealed her screen name. I was surprised! This cute sweet heart was one of my harshest critics who wrote so many anti-Islam, anti-Arab and anti-Saudi comments. I often thought she was actually a man. Women, I reasoned, were not capable of such hate, anger and foul words.
We were thrilled to meet each other in such fashion, and the couple invited me to lunch a day later. I went. And, as I told a concerned American friend later, it was a clash of civilizations!
I found that she is a computer consultant and an intellectual who speaks five European languages. Born in France to a Christian family, she became an opponent of organized religions in her 20s.
She never liked Arabs and Muslims. “Americans and Europeans,” she claimed, “fear Islam, because they know it for what it is: A religion of violence. Your Qur’an and the Prophet instruct you to hate and kill us. I can show you hundreds of passages where you were told to kill, kill, kill non-Muslims!”
It amazed me that she looked like she did believe that. How many would agree with her, I wondered. I knew if I just denied her accusation, she won’t be convinced. And since she is scientific, I decided to use mathematical logic instead.
What is the percentage of devout Muslims, I asked. “Most! You are a dangerously religious people,” she answered.
If so, I reasoned, then most of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are potential killers.
Just imagine a billion of snipers, mujahedeen and suicide bombers scattered everywhere including here in America, where eight millions Muslims reside — excluding visitors like me. If that was the case, how come your world is not on fire?
She retorted: Then explain why Muslims have killed more people than any followers of any religion in history?
I told her that I don’t blame religions or prophets for the misdeeds of their followers. Otherwise, we would blame Christianity for the millions the Crusaders killed for centuries in the name of Jesus, or the bloody religious wars in Europe, or the Catholic mass killing of Muslims and Jews in Spain during the Inquisition, or the colonizers’ heinous crimes in a world they called primitive and in need of the light of Christianity.
In the last century only, Christian armies caused the death of tens of millions, fifty millions of them in World War II alone. In Ireland and Spain, Christian sects have been killing each others for ages, often in the name of God. In America, radical Christians have hanged and burned natives, blacks and Jews since the discovery of America to recent days.
In Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Palestine, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush called his war a crusade, and claimed that he received his directions directly from God. The Evangelical-Zionist alliance that pushed the war agenda are Christians and Jews. Some of US allies in this war showed similar religious motivations and hate for Islam, like the former Italian Prime Minister Silivio Berlusconi.
Muslims did similar killing in the name of Allah in past centuries and today. Sometimes it is legitimate resistance to occupation and other times for political gains under religious banners. Still, even our extremists dare not blame Christianity or any other religion for the crimes of its followers.
It is part of our religion to believe in Christianity and Judaism, Jesus and Moses, the Bible and Torah. On the other hand, your radicals blame Islam, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Qur’an for the criminality of a few thousands out of 1.3 billion Muslims. It is just not right, not logical and not fair.
My friend wasn’t moved much. But at least I was still welcome as a friend, and not feared as a potential killer!