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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Presbyterian publishing house at it again

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The publishing house owned by the Presbyterian Church (USA), Westminster John Knox Press (WJK), is at it again. In 2006, WJK produced Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 by David Ray Griffin. In this book, Griffin asserted that the Bush Administration was complicit in the attacks on September 11, 2001 that killed approximately 3,000 Americans.

The Bush Administration’s goal, Griffin reported, was to justify the expansion of an American empire. One of the arguments Griffin put forth was that the WTC buildings collapsed as the result of a “controlled demolition” caused by high explosives that were secretly planted prior to the attack.
 
These and other arguments were roundly and thoroughly discredited by another book published by Popular Mechanics in 2006, Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up the Facts.

Griffin’s book was so ludicrous that officials from the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s publishing corporation stated that the conspiracy theory presented in the book “is spurious and based on questionable research.”

This repudiation hasn’t stopped Westminster John Knox Press from selling the book (which is still listed in the company’s online catalogue), nor has it stopped the publishing yet another irresponsible text, The Truth About Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction by Rev. Ben Daniel, a PC(USA) minister in California.

In this text released on March 25, 2013, Rev. Daniel makes his agenda clear. He wants to soothe American fears about Islam.

Promoting good interfaith relations is a laudable goal, but Daniel is so committed to his agenda that he willfully ignores some obvious facts that any responsible commentator would address.

For example, he offers no mention of the mistreatment Christians and other religious minorities endure in Muslim-majority countries throughout the world. Daniel’s abandonment of his fellow Christians who are suffering in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan is inexcusable, but not at all a surprise given his denomination’s obsessive focus on Zionism and its silence about the impact of Islamism on human rights. The PC(USA)’s leaders and peace activists regularly condemn Israel while remaining largely silent about the oppression of Christians in the Middle East. It’s not their thing.

Daniel’s treatment of American-born Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College in California is instructive. He writes that “Imam Zaid hopes the institution will help its students prepare for life in modern America by integrating a centuries-old faith into life in the twenty-first century… His articulation of the purpose of an Islamic education actually sounded quite a bit like what I used to hear as a student at Westmont, a Christian liberal arts college in Santa Barbara, California…” Daniel writes.

The way Daniel describes Imam Shakir, he seems like a good candidate for interfaith dialogue. There are a few problems, however. Shakir has, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, suggested that the attack on the WTC in 1993 was “undertaken by Zionist forces to give proof to their allegations concerning the magnitude of ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ terrorism, and as a pretext to intensify their anti-Islamic propaganda campaign in the U.S. media.” Shakir seems to think Israel and its supporters are responsible for the attack.

Shakir has also worked to undermine pluralism in the U.S., stating, “As Christians and Jews of this country have rejected the divine law and created their own secular system of a rule, the legal and political system of America is sinful and constitutes open rebellion against Allah. For a Muslim to join with the Jews and Christians in this system is to join them in their rebellion against Allah. Allah explicitly orders against this.” Is this the type of stuff Daniel heard at Westmont?

Despite Shakir’s obvious contempt for secular pluralism, Daniel writes that American Muslims who follow him are in “good hands” and are the “face of Muslim America’s future.” He closes the chapter that describes the imam as follows: “With the wisdom of people like Imam Zaid Shakir, both Islam and America will thrive.”

Why is a PC(USA) minister lionizing an imam who has promoted an irresponsible (and possibly anti-Semitic) conspiracy theory about the 1993 terrorist attack and who regards secular pluralism as an affront to God? And why is the PC(USA)’s publishing house helping him do this?
 
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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