TV preacher Pat Robertson struck again March 13, telling viewers of his “700 Club” that Muslims are demonic and satanic and that they are trying to take over the world.
The latest Robertson outburst came after the program aired a report about Muslim protests over cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed in European newspapers.
Following the report, Robertson said, “These people are crazed fanatics and I want to say it now: I believe it’s motivated by demonic power, it is satanic and it’s time we recognize what we’re dealing with…. The goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination.”
He insisted that “Islam is not a religion of peace.”
Robertson must have realized his remarks would be considered inflammatory. In the version of the show posted on the Internet, the offensive remarks were deleted. But Americans United, which had a copy of the original broadcast, shared it with reporters.
Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said the attempt to erase the comments was too little, too late.
“At a time when inter-religious tensions around the world are at an all-time high, Robertson seems determined to throw gasoline on the fire,” said Lynn. “His comments are grossly irresponsible. Robertson seems to be wrestling with demons of his own, namely intolerance and bigotry. To condemn an entire religion because of the behavior of some is deplorable.
“It is certainly appropriate that Robertson has removed the offensive comments from the Internet version of the show,” Lynn added. “However, it is imperative that he issue an immediate and unequivocal apology, because millions of viewers have already heard the inflammatory remarks. When will Robertson ever learn to think before he speaks?”
Angell Watts, a Robertson spokeswoman, defended his comments and said they were not meant to tar all Muslims.
“When you watch the segment, isn’t it very clear to you that he’s talking about radical Islam?” asked Watts. “It’s very obvious that we pointed out that it’s about radical Islam and terrorists.”
Nihad Awad, director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on American religious and political leaders to publicly condemn Robertson’s remarks.
“The failure by mainstream religious and political leaders to challenge Mr. Robertson’s Islamophobic remarks will send the false message to Muslims worldwide that the majority of Americans agree with his hate-filled views,” Awad said.
He added, “The constant, and largely unchallenged, drumbeat of anti-Muslim rhetoric is poisoning the public’s attitude toward ordinary American Muslims.”
Recent polls have shown that almost half of Americans have negative views of Islam.
Robertson’s outbursts may finally be taking a toll on his standing in the evangelical community. Recently, Robertson was among 36 candidates seeking election to the National Religious Broadcasters’ 33-member board. Despite the fact that he is a longtime member of the board, Robertson lost. (The election took place before the attack on Islam, when Robertson was still recovering from his Jan. 5 comments that God smote Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stroke because Sharon gave land to the Palestinians.)
“I would say that there was broad dismay with some of Pat’s comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general, but by no means was there any broad effort in our association to dissociate ourselves with him,” Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, told The Washington Post. (A Robertson lieutenant, attorney Jay Sekulow, remains on the NRB board.)
Another Religious Right evangelist, Franklin Graham, also recently blasted Islam. Graham, who angered Muslims all over the world in 2001 when he said that Islam “is a very evil and wicked religion,” was asked by ABC News’ “Nightline” March 16 if his views have changed.
“No,” Graham told correspondent John Donvan. “Do they want to indoctrinate me? Yes. I know about Islam. I don’t need an education from Islam. If people think Islam is such a wonderful religion, just go to Saudi Arabia and make it your home. Just live there. If you think Islam is such a wonderful religion, I mean, go and live under the Taliban somewhere. I mean, you’re free to do that.”