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Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2001 /27 Kislev 5762

Don Feder

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People are discovering Islam the hard way -- ON the day last week when the Bush administration froze the assets of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, I received an attractive booklet ("Discover Islam: The Reader") from the American Islamic Information Center.

Sadly, the publication's pleading was contradicted by developments here and abroad.

Lavishly illustrated with a rainbow spectrum of smiling faces, the reader answers such commonly asked questions as -- "How does Islam guarantee human rights and equality?" "How does Islam relate to Christianity and Judaism?" and (no kidding) "How does Islam elevate the status of women?"

The reader neglects to explain the affinity of some Moslems for flying airliners into office buildings and detonating explosive devices. But the Holy Land Foundation takes up the slack.

The foundation is America's largest Moslem charity, which raised $13 million last year. Its principal beneficiary was Hamas -- which does uncharitable things to passengers on Israeli buses.

Mainstream Moslem groups were furious over the administration's move. The foundation is "a respectable Moslem charity that does good work," insisted Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (The council's former head once described the conviction of Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as a "hate crime against Moslems.")

At a 1995 Los Angeles event, where the foundation raised $207,000, a military leader of Hamas exhorted the faithful: "Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all!" Was this what Hooper meant by good work?

How exactly does Islam guarantee human rights and equality when democracy is nonexistent in nations with Moslem majorities? The New York Times observes that in the Arab world (the Moslem heartland) "true democracy is scarcer than in any other part of the globe."

As for Islam's interaction with Christians, the State Department's annual survey of religious freedom is revealing. The latest report notes that in the past five years over 1 million Christians have fled Moslem countries. vIn Saudi Arabia, a dozen Christians are in jail for practicing their faith. The State Department matter-of-factly comments, "Freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia."

When Nigerian Moslems took to the streets to celebrate Sept. 11, 300 to 400 Christians died in one day alone. In May 2000, 200 were killed in the city of Kaduna, including Father Clement Ozi Bello (a Moslem convert to Catholicism), who was dragged from his car, blinded and slain. "Our people are being shot, butchered and roasted," pleads Kaduna Bishop Josiah Fearon.

In Pakistan, a number of Christians languish on death row for violating Section 295 (c) of the nation's penal code, which makes blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed a capital crime. On Oct. 28, in Bahawalpur, the Army of Omar related to Protestant churchgoers with automatic weapons, killing 16.

In Indonesia, the world's largest Moslem country, the Laskar Jihad has expanded its ethnic cleansing of Christians from Maluku (where 9,000 have died since 1999) to the neighboring province of Sulawesi. According to International Christian Concern, between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29 , 600 homes and six churches were destroyed. vAnd in the Philippines, the Abu Sayyaf spreads terror in the pursuit of an Islamic republic on Mindanao. Among last year's victims was Father Rhoel Gallardo, a kidnapped Catholic priest who was tortured and killed for refusing to say Moslem prayers.

For a religion that is said to respect human rights and equality, Islam does a rather thorough job of trampling the former and denying the latter, from Africa's west coast to East Asia. While they're voluble in demanding tolerance for their faith, when it comes to the suffering of minorities in Islamic countries, American Moslems are mute.

Nowhere is multicultural theory more starkly refuted by reality than here. President George W. Bush tells us of the contributions of American Moslems, the Postal Service issues a stamp honoring two Islamic festivals, and the American Islamic Information Center circulates its soothing booklet. At the same time, throughout the Third World, people are discovering Islam the hard way.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate