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In the Crossfire

Muslims angered by Baptist criticism

WASHINGTON (CNN) Criticism of Islam's founding prophet by a Southern Baptist leader has prompted Muslims to accuse the denomination of bigotry.

During a Monday evening conference at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, the Rev. Jerry Vines told conventioneers "that Islam is not just as good as Christianity."

"Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives -- and his last one was a 9-year-old girl," said Vines, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, and a former Southern Baptist Convention president.

The convention's president has rejected calls to repudiate what a Muslim group called "bigoted" and "hate-filled" statements.

Hussein Ibish, director of communications and media for of the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell joined "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson to discuss the controversial comments.

FALWELL: I do know Dr. Vines very well as a humble man of God, a preacher of the gospel for many years. And I did not believe, when I was listening to him, that he was attacking Islam or Muslim people. He was rather comparing the life and the behavior of Jesus Christ and Muhammad. And he gave the story of the virgin-born, sinless son of God who died upon the cross for the sins of the world, rose from the dead to grant ever-lasting life and then he pointed out historically -- and by the way it's all a matter of history -- that Mohammad, in fact, was guilty of massacring many, many thousands of Jews ...

BEGALA: Do you believe Muhammad was a "demon-possessed pedophile," Reverend? That is a slur on a prophet who's ...

FALWELL: I'll tell you what he did. I'll let you decide if he's a pedophile. Among his many wives, and no Muslim scholar denies this, he had a wife who was given to him, betrothed to him at age 6 by his best friend ... And he -- when she was 9 -- consummated the marriage. Now in a civilized society, when a 54-year-old man consummates a marriage with a 9-year-old girl, I think it is reasonable to say that pedophilia is not taking it beyond the limits of reality.

CARLSON: Mr. Ibish, is that true? Let's just start there. Did Muhammad have a nine-year-old wife?

IBISH: I have no idea and neither does anybody else. To be honest with you, that happened 1,500 years ago. Much of this is mythological ... It's not the point.

FALWELL: That is the point.

CARLSON: Do Muslim scholars believe it to be true? Is it accepted ...

IBISH: Actually, I have no idea about whom the prophet married, and when, and why -- and it doesn't matter. The point is that this is part and parcel of a generalized attack on Islam and Muslims. Of course it's an attack on Islam. You've got to be kidding. What about the rest of the stuff that he said about Islam not being as good as Christianity?

CARLSON: Mr. Ibish, hold on ... I want you to respond to the more specific charges in this, and the general charge that Islam promotes violence. That is the charge that this man has made. It's a charge that many have made, and I want you to respond to what I believe is one of the sources of this understanding. And it comes right from the Koran, Sura 9-5. I want to read it to you.

"Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them. Fight them. Allah will punish them." Kill unbelievers, in other words.

IBISH: Right, now anyone can play this game, Tucker.

FALWELL: That's not a game.

IBISH: I can go into the Bible. It's a filthy game to tarnish other people's religion.

CARLSON: This is a quote from the Koran, Mr. Ibish. It's not a filthy game.

IBISH: Exactly. I can go into the Bible, into the book of Joshua and find quotes about God ordering Joshua to wipe out everybody, men, women and children. I can go into the Talmud and find all kinds. In fact, there are Web sites all over this country, anti-Semitic vicious Web sites that are filled up with quotes, ripped out of context from Jewish holy books in an attempt to slur Jews.

CARLSON: Well, give us the context. I don't understand.

IBISH: Well, the point is that the traditions of Islam have been peaceful and tolerant in the main, but just like with Christianity and Judaism, there have been violent Muslims. The point is 1.3 billion people in this world are Muslims. Most of them are good and decent people, and the faith has given them a moral vehicle to be such.




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