by M. Junaid Levesque-Alam
In their spirited assault on Islam, conservatives have seized upon one notion with particular delight: the Abrahamic faith embraced by a quarter of humanity is a “cult.”
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey popularized the claim in July when a constituent asked about the “threat that’s invading our country from Muslims”; Ramsey wondered aloud whether Islam “is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult” and later asserted that “far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.” Soon after, some of Ramsey’s constituents set ablaze a planned mosque site near Nashville and fired shots when parishioners tried to inspect the damage.
Farther south, in Florida, Pastor Terry Jones proclaimed that Islam is not just a cult but a Satanic creation — hence his planned bonfire of Qur’ans. He is not alone among Floridians. Congressional candidate and retired Army officer Allen West announced earlier this year that Islam is “not a religion” but a “vicious enemy” intent on “infiltrating” America. Another candidate in the sunshine state, Ron McNeil, described Islam as a malicious plot to “destroy our way of life.”
And in upstate New York this August, teenagers who viewed the local mosque as a “cult house” terrorized mosque-goers by blasting a shotgun and sideswiping a parishioner.
What accounts for this renewed alacrity in attacking Islam?