My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

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Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Lobelia

    "In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians – and all Americans – in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims."

    That's right–because a difference between free-thinking Americans and Middle Eastern lemmings is that we Americans are, by and large, programmed to filter out and ignore the loony rants of fringe American Christian media personalities, while the Middle Eastern Muslims seem programmed to absorb that sort of thing and take it to heart. I don't agree with most of what radical American evangelicals have to say, but I don't wish them to have to filter their speech to take into account the hyper-sensitivities of foreign cultures.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  2. jdub

    They say "do not fear 2billion peaceful Muslims, just the few that use the religion for their destructive purposes"

    They say "fear the evangelical Christian" that forwards "hateful, uneducated" emails (well only one email was provided as evidence, but I digress)

    I say fear the 2billion peaceful Muslims in those countries that allow the few to hijack their religion for evil purposes. I don't fear all Muslims. I fear those that who feel they have the freedom and the power to speak for their religion in the most violent, evil, and heinous ways.

    And I have yet to see an evangelical Christian email attack and kill innocent Muslims or burn their embassies on American soil.

    And I've never been to a church that preached hatred for Muslims or called on Christians to kill in the name of God.

    But the author here would like you to Christians and their phobias are the enemy.

    I'd contend that those offending Muslims are set on destroying freedom loving people of all races, creeds, and religions that don't acquiesce to creation of the Caliphate. That is where our attention should be focused, as well as the 2billion peace loving Muslims throughout the world. I would also call on those peaceful Muslims around the world to find strength in their faith, disregard the popular media, reach out to all religions, and rise above the rhetoric and fear that pits us against each other.

    Peace-loving Muslims:

    Make yourself heard. Speak louder than your detractors. March for peace. Vote for moderation. Unite with freedom loving people everywhere.

    It's your move. Americans, Christians, and Westerners can speak out all they want. Soldiers and radical can battle in the streets. But only you will win the war for peace – not our will or words or guns.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  3. JSmith

    Religion, enough to make me throw up in my mouth a little. They all hate at some level, but disguise it with big smiles.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • deep blue

      "They all hate at some level"
      Seems like someone is feeling superior. How is that different? Because you think you are right?

      September 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Veritas

      So true. We atheists don't really give a damn about all these man-made religions, but they happen to be in our faces all the time! I wish people would evolve.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Nah

      jsmith: "Religion, enough to make me throw up in my mouth a little. They all hate at some level, but disguise it with big smiles."

      You meant this to be ironic, right?

      Or are you blind to your own pitiful bigotry?

      September 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  4. Meki60

    muslims are like fireants, tbey can not live around anyone other

    September 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • pepsee

      This is probably a good reason -The fundamental difference between islam and rest of the world religions lie at the origin. In all other monotheistic religion the main messenger (e.g. Jesus, Buddha) left personal life and desire behind to spread their message and never used violence to accomplish it. We all know mohamed used severe bloody violence to spread his message and exercised his carnal desire. Generally that's exactly what we see among the followers of these respective religions – in today's world.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • deep blue

      7 Muslim Libyan security forces sacrificed their lives to try to protect our ambassador. Are they like fire ants too, or we do we need to get a bit more specific in our condemnation?

      September 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  5. Viking1

    We should send this little creampuff weasel over to appease the rioters. The moment the blade goes in his throat, he will finally be able to admit the truth (and we will have another highlight reel). Ron Paul is proven mostly right almost every day; there should be NO U.S. embassies, NOT ONE DIME of $$$ aid, NO US military presence, and NO interaction whatsoever we these cretins. Leave Israel alone to mop up these jabbering idiots, and mind our own business here in the US. Their threat of an "oil embargo" will last a couple of weeks (when they are broke and begin to starve).....

    September 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Meki60

      boy, you are spot-on as the Brits say.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  6. deep blue

    My take: let's complain about the crimes, terrorist attacks, bigotry, ect, not the religious faiths.
    Claiming "Muslims are violent" insults the sacrifice of the 7 Libyan security forces that died trying to protect our ambassador.
    Complaining about Evangelical bigots insults the many tolerant Evangelicals.
    There is plenty of hate and bigotry from terrorists. We're above that..

    September 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  7. sparky


    September 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  8. sparky


    September 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  9. Rationalized

    You are wrong, I have some very good Muslim friends. In fact, I have lived in Muslim dominated country for over two decades so don't give me that c-ap that evangelicals don't know Muslims / Islam. IMPO, there are less than 10% (I could put even 5) moderate and intellectual Muslims others are just blind followers. For them USA is a Christian country so they have oppose and kill infidel. I am telling you the truth. Some countries where they tend to behave ok is where they are controlled by majority in an aggressive manner. Example is India. India otherwise is a very peaceful country and they respect all religions but if Hindus are pushed, they stand up against Muslim hostility. Apart from small skirmishes, Muslims tend to behave ok in India and if they don't they have a 3rd degree treatment waiting for them. I am not an advocate for violence and believe that most of the problems can be sorted out by having rational conversations and came to conclusions on "agree to disagree" decisions. We all are human being and have our own opinion on everything so we can't agree on everything but I will have hard time having real conversation with someone whose sole aim is to convert me or kill me.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  10. pepsee

    Lets see – how many WORLDWIDE riots/attacks sparked by the muslims and how many sparked by all other religions taken together in just last fifteen years? Every religion gets ridiculed in some form but only that religion starts WORLDWIDE destruction and attacks people from all other religions from all other countries.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • nkrempa

      Now you're spamming... you've already posted this at least twice. Please add something to the discussion without the knee-jerk proselytizing.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Simon B. Sinister

    A phobia is an irrational fear. It is rational to be afraid of people of Islamic faith because they believe it is their religious duty to force all others to follow their irrational laws. And they have shown through their actions and words they are willing to do evil things to get their way. Your article does more to help Islamic terrorists than one of them with a suicide vest. Use your brain moron!

    September 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • pepsee

      The fundamental difference between islam and rest of the world religions lie at the origin. In all other monotheistic religion the main messenger (e.g. Jesus, Buddha) left personal life and desire behind to spread their message and never used violence to accomplish it. We all know mohamed used severe bloody violence to spread his message and exercised his carnal desire. Generally that's exactly what we see among the followers of these respective religions – in today's world.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • nkrempa

      pepsee – again with the rampant generalization that "we all know..." something when nothing could be further from the truth. Please, stick to posting your own feelings and don't project your morals (or lack thereof) and values on me and others.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • pepsee

      nKrempa, what is further from the truth? Have you never read the books on how mohamed accomplished his mission by sword? And how violence was never part of the way Jesus and Buddha spread their teaching? Maybe it is time to wake up from the 72 virgins' dreamland (the religion that rewards heinous acts with perverse things.)

      September 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  12. Monica

    Personally, I could not care less about evangelicals or their views on Islam. All I care about is the fact that you fringe extremists and religious fanatics, are screwing rational normal people over. I don't care if you all collectively decide that only YOUR imaginary man in the sky is the REAL truth. I don't care because I think you're ALL freakin' bat poop crazy! This article is incredibly self-important... I guess if you've all convinced yourselves on the imaginary man business- its makes tons of sense to assume that your views are pondered globally by anyone besides YOU. We'd be a lot better off if you'd keep your gods in your hearts and in your individual choices where he/she/it belongs- rather that obnoxiously flaunting your faith and cheapening it by screaming it from the rooftops and trying to inject it everywhere that it doesn't belong- politics and global affairs being at the top of the list.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  13. Name*Todd L Thomas

    God bless you... But couldn't disagree more.. Wow... Should we feel guilty of Charles Manson-phobia too?

    September 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  14. Captain Obvious

    If these two sides *actually* believed in the faiths that they profess to follow,
    Christians need to ask themselves: "What would Jesus do?" And the answer would involve tolerance..
    Muslims need to ask themselves: "What would Muhammad do?" And the answer would involve tolerance.

    Both sides seem caught up in focusing on the hate/fear/intolerance aspects of their texts, when the majority preach the opposite.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Susie

      Are you talking about the Mohammad that forcefully converted people to his religion?

      September 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • nkrempa

      Oh, for pity's sake, Susie. Are you trying to make others think that you've been a student of Islam that you would KNOW what Mohammad did or did not do? Quit it. Unless you have credentials to back it up, please stop telling us all what the Prophet would or would not have done.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Chad

      There are historical facts about what Mohamed did and didn't do, so you can simply look them up in a reputable history book. Copies of the Koran are freely available. And unlike Christ, Mohamed did conquer people with the sword. His actions are much more similar to the patriarchs of the Old Testament, and very different from the patriarchs of the New Testament (Christ, Paul and others gave their lives for their faith, rather than killing for it). Views from inside Islam and from Western scholarship would no doubt agree with this view.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Susie

      Actually I have studied World Religions at a reputable public university. I have enough units to have a minor in religious studies. How about you?

      September 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • tsoho

      nkrempa, are you trying to suggest that Mohammed did not use violence to spread Islam?

      That would have to involve a significant re-writing of history.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Catherine

      Capt Obvious, you really don't know much about Islam or its history, do you.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  15. us_1776

    Energy independence is the only way to deal with middle-east extremism.

    We must start building more alternative energy projects for the long term and some more drilling for the short term that makes the US net energy producers instead of energy importers.

    Then we just pull all money and resources out of the Middle East and let those people rot in their own 7th century mentality.


    September 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  16. Chad

    After reading McLaren, you would think it was evangelicals attacking foreign embassies and killing people with guns and rockets. Really? Evangelicals need to apologize for their hate? I'm not seeing much evidence of hate in that sector. Maybe e-mails in all caps are really severe expression of hate, but I'm more worried about the guy throwing rocks and killing people.

    It's strange how writers and thinkers are so politically correct in their positions, that they will do anything but actually point the finger at the people who are enacting violence on others. I wouldn't give Christians a free pass to make inaccurate generalizations or use hyperbole that harmfully plays on people's fears. But in this case the attackers and protestors across the middle east are doing far more to promote hate and religious tensions than evangelical hate speech.

    And this group is a tiny minority? Did you see the live stream of the masses coming out of Egypt? There were a lot more than a tiny minority being destructive there. McLaren, you can tell yourself fairy tales if you want, but there are other people who have a far greater monopoly on hate right now than the evangelical Christian.

    Stop apologizing for the west, America, and withdraw foreign aid from people who burn our flags and kill our envoys. When they get their houses in order, then America's generosity can return. That's not hate, but tough love.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Captain Obvious

      "Evangelicals need to apologize for their hate?" Um...yes, if they actually profess to follow the religion they are preaching. Try reading the Bible some time....

      September 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Colin

      I find myself agreeing with Chad.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Katie

      AMEN! I felt like I was taking crazy pills while I was reading that. This is so ridiculous! Where are the apologies to Mormons because of the intolerance toward them? I haven't heard Hillary condemn the writers/producers of "The Book of Mormon" a broadway play that desecrates their holy book. I haven't seen Mormons kill because of it, and it seems that the same people that are ready to jump on the "lets be tolerant of Muslims" are the ones that are so intolerant to Mormons.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Chad

      Actually, in a general sense, a Christian should love, instead of hate (if he is following Christ). When he or she fails at this, sure he or she should ask for forgiveness and try to reconcile with those who have been hurt. But the idea that Christians need to apologize for their hate, simply because they are Christians is ridiculous. This writer assumes that a Christian (or evangelical) by nature is hateful. In the end, McLaren has subscribed to a thinly veiled form of self-loathing that has become oh so trendy in the popular press and from politically correct pulpits. This form of generalized self-hatred and bigotry is just as wrong as the hatred McLaren is trying to condemn. No: Christ never said: "if thou evangelize, hate thyself." I do read my Bible. by the way.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • nkrempa

      No, Chad. The writer, as I read the article (unbiased, since I'm not an evangelical or a Muslim) the writer is taking evangelicals to task for espousing the hatred and propagating it. And he's right there... there is no reason for Christian evangelical leaders to be whipping their faithful masses into a frenzy against AN ENTIRE RELIGION based on the actions of a minority – no matter how abhorrent they are.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Lobelia

      Free Speech, baby! I think most of those evangelicals are nuts, not to mention offensive, but they shouldn't have to adjust what they want to say to avoid sending hyper-sensitive Muslims into riot mode. Middle Eastern Muslims will never understand or appreciate the concept of freedom to say what one wants no matter how offensive it may be. That is the bottom line. We believe in it and always will. They don't and never will.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Chad

      nkrempa: you miss my point. This writer is exhibiting the same type of bigotry toward Evangelicals as he is decrying against Muslims. I suppose his Christian friends really represent all Evangelicals? Are we to assume since this writer has a few e-mails written in all caps from Christians that a majority of Evangelicals hate Muslims? Well, that is a hasty generalization, just like the one he is accusing Christians of committing. In the Christian case, however, we don't have the evidence of thousands upon thousands throwing rocks and beating each other with sticks. A few e-mails in all caps versus rocket attacks, 911, and dead envoys? Sure, some violent dolts emerge from the Christian faith now and them, but are usually quickly disavowed and condemned when they enact their hatred (go back and review what most pastors said about abortion bombers). In contrast, how hard do you have to search among the mobbing masses of flag burners and rock throwers to find someone peacefully protesting with no intent to harm others? When looking at the kind of religious fervor whipped up by Mohammed, versus the fervor whipped up by Christ, I think there is a generally stark contrast. Maybe it's because one prophet assumed power over lives with military might, while another prophet sacrificed his life and relinquished all Earthly power.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Prime Directive

      "while another prophet sacrificed his life and relinquished all Earthly power."

      Well, isn't that CONVENIENT! It's just the same as if he didn't exist...

      September 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  17. Colin

    It is true that 99% of Muslims are peaceful, but it is also true that 99% of terrorists are Muslims. The greater the percentage of a country's population that is Muslim, the less freedoms the people have. Muslim countries also tend to be dirt poor and corrupt. They haven't addided a thing to civilization since about 1400. It is a pathetic, disgusting faith.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Burnell

      Funny, must have missed when that was reported, could have fooled me; lets see unabomber, sihk massacre, joker massacre, that militia group murder, bombings at various abortion clinics, Irish republican army bombings, really 99% of all terrorists are Muslims? Doesn't seem the evidence supports it, just your own opinion, but not the facts.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • tsoho

      Burnell, you mentioned six examples of violence by non-Muslims (not all of them would be considered terrorist attacks, incidentally) which means that for the 99% number to be accurate, there needs to be around 600 examples of Muslim violence.

      By the time you add up everything that Muqtada and Al-Qaeda did in Iraq over the course of 6 years, you probably have far more than 600 acts on the other side just in one country. That doesn't even include the Muslim violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Israel, India, the US, England, and Spain.

      99% might very well be an accurate estimate.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  18. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    There is no other truth but Truth absolute, hindu's, ignorant's deny by their hindu soul, filthy desire, untill it is truth absolute followed by hindu Jew's, filthy self centered and their hindu gentile, criminal slaves, follower's of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled Christianity, world has no chance to see peace, Islam on earth. things will not change until and unless Americans follow truth absolute, unimpeded and dump hindu Judaism, filthy secular ism, For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Veritas

      All nutcases like you with their "Absolute Truth" are scary, brainwashed, mental patients. Religion's most prominent use is to leverage hate!

      September 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Truth absolute is a fundamental fact of existence, not hinduism, religion, as you understand in your hinduism, ignorance.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Veritas

      I don't know much about hindusim. I surmise that you are a pakistani muslim who hate all indians and therefore assume that anyone who criticizes you must be a hindu indian. I am an American of European decent.
      There is no absolute truth! We are in constant pursuit of truths through science and reason. Religions only provide false truths that are easy to digest for the feeble mind.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  19. tal

    The "phobia" is merited. That's the big problem in your argument. Sure, there is misinformation in the Christian world, but nothing compared to what we see in Islam. Stop trying to equate them.

    And I am appalled at how the author understates the plight of the Coptic Christians. Just because some Christian evangelical overstated it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  20. Daniel Morgan

    "It’s time for Islamofascists to choose- You can either stop acting like barbarians or you can finally push the civilized world a bit too far."

    It’s time for racists and fake macho "patriots" to choose- You can either stop acting like barbarians or you can actually be part of a solution instead of part of the problem.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • ben

      when Islam has taken over the US and banned women from going to school, driving, holding a job, etc. CNN will still be talking about how great they are. OH I forgot, journalist will be the first to be executed, just like in the old soviet bloc countries. If they were influential enough to help them get power, they might be influential enough to take it from them, Therefore, they must go.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • ModMus

      Ben, really? do you actually believe it? How can 1% population take over 99 % (ok does not apply if 1% in question are the richest 1%).

      Many muslims emigrated to west as they were sick of extremism and love freedom.

      Even muslim countries do not meet your description. Do you know that Pakistan and Bangladesh had a female prime minister and there are currently many ministries held by women.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
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