I recently heard author Deborah Amos discuss her new book The Eclipse of the Sunnis. When talking about the persecution of Iraqi Christians in recent years, Deborah commented that their situation was not helped by Americans such as Franklin Graham describing Islam as a "filthy dirty religion".
The problem is, that is not what Graham said. He described Islam as an "evil religion". When that phrase caused a widespread backlash, Graham clarified his statement by saying (read the complete statement here), "I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. I personally have many Muslim friends. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith--including Christianity."
I have a couple of questions. First, why would a respected journalist like Deborah Amos blur the lines to make no difference between the description of an ideology as "evil" or its description as "filthy and dirty"? To me, there is a clear difference. An ideology, belief system, or religion can be described as "evil" if it damages people and produces victims. To change the words of a person who used that phrase and accuse him of describing that belief system as "filthy and dirty" turns the discussion away from what could be an intellectually honest argument to merely an invective personal attack.
Question number 2: many ex-Muslims use the word "evil" to describe Islam. The cover of Wafa Sultan's book A God Who Hates says, The Courageous Woman who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam. Would Deborah Amos, or any other journalist who specializes in the Middle East, as easily say that Wafa described Islam as a "filthy dirty religion"? I am sure that Aayan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel, and Mosab Hassan Yousef in Son of Hamas and many other well-known ex-Muslims would not hesitate to use the word "evil" in describing the religion they left behind. Do we as easily dismiss them by accusing them of calling their former religion "dirty and filthy"?
The third question is the most important. What is evil, and does Islam qualify as being evil? That is not a question that can be answered in a paragraph or a page, but requires a lot of serious discussion by people on both sides. That discussion, unfortunately, does not even seem to have a place in most of the media.