August 13, 2002

Ibish on CNN's Crossfire talks about teaching Islam

Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, Hussein Ibish, Joe Glover

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are coming to you as always from George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C.

Down at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they're trying to raise Islam awareness by requiring all 3,500 incoming freshmen to read a book called "Approaching the Koran, the Early Revelations." The assignment has sparked a lawsuit by the Family Policy Network, which says the book is a one-sided presentation. It leaves out passages terrorists use to justify their attacks. Stepping into CROSSFIRE, Hussein Ibish, communications director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and in Lynchburg, Virginia is the man behind the lawsuit, Joe Glover of the Family Policy Network.

BEGALA: Hello, Mr. Glover. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I thank you for joining us. There you are.

I want to first sort of get you on record in one of the great debates on the American right today. On the one side is the son of Billy Graham. Billy Graham, one of the great legends of the American faith community. His son, Franklin Graham, one of the great losers. He said Islam is, and I quote, "wicked" and "violent." That's one side. Islam is wicked and violent. On the other side, here's our president. I want to play a piece of videotape from President George W. Bush, and here's what he says about Islam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We share a commitment to family, to protect and love our children. We share a belief in God's justice and man's moral responsibility. And we share the same hope for a future of peace. We have much in common and much to learn from one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Mr. Glover I think Reverend Graham is all wet and I think our president is all right. With whom do you agree?

JOE GLOVER, FAMILY POLICY NETWORK: Well, I would say that in order to understand what Islam really teaches, you'd have to look at the final authority, and that would be the Koran itself. The question of whether or not Islam is a religion of peace or a violent religion can be answered in the pages of the Koran. One of our concerns with this fight at the University of North Carolina is they've selected a book that leaves out surahs four, five and nine from the Koran, which is where you're going to find all the hate and bigotry, all that is replete in the Koran, against Christians and Jews.

BEGALA: But with respect, I'd like you to answer the question, though. I want you to tell me as a conservative and a pro-family leader that you think our president is wrong.

GLOVER: I don't think President Bush is the issue. I think the issue is whether or not the Koran itself teaches...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You should have the courage of your convictions. If you're going to be dragging schoolbooks into a lawsuit, Mr. Glover, you ought to have the spine to stand up and say whether you agree with our president.

HUSSEIN IBISH, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: Well, let me put it this way. Let's take a look at this lawsuit...

GLOVER: OK, fine, I disagree with the president, but...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What this strikes me as the kind of -- I just want to read you a description from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They are assigning a book that contains, quote, "passages from the chief holy book of Islam," passages that are, quote, "poetic and intensely evocative, beautiful meditations." All of that may be true. Consider, consider if a state school like UNC were assigned the gospels to all freshmen. You would have a lawsuit.

IBISH: No, of course we wouldn't. And if you did, you would loose it.

CARLSON: Yes, you would.

IBISH: No, no, look, I have got a Ph.D. in comparative literature. I got it from a state school, UMass, Amherst. In the course of getting my Ph.D. in comparative literature, I took not one but numerous courses and seminars about the Bible...

(CROSSTALK)

IBISH: Because you cannot understand western civilization, western culture, western literature without understanding the Bible, and in fact in great detail. Now, what the school is teaching here is culture. They are not foisting a religion on anybody. They're not trying to convert people. No one is going to get converted by this. They are teaching people about one of the most important books ever written and about the culture of one-fifth of humanity. The First Amendment does nothing to prohibit the teaching of culture and literature. This lawsuit -- hold on -- is people suing the university for the right to remain pig-ignorant and still get a degree from the University of North Carolina. That's pathetic.

CARLSON: Mr. Glover, Mr. Glover -- pig-ignorant?

IBISH: Pig-ignorant. This isn't pro-family, its pro-stupidity.

BEGALA: Mr. Glover?

GLOVER: You know, my question would be, what does the university have to

fear with telling the whole story about Islam? Why are they leaving out

passages four, five and nine from the Koran? Why are they not talking

about passages that say "do not take Christians and Jews for friends,

for they're friends of each other, and if you take them for a friend,

then surely you are one of them, one of the unjust people." Why does it

leave out the passages like surah nine that says "fight and slay the

pagan, lay an ambush and beleaguer them so you can lock and punish them

at your hand."

(CROSSTALK)

IBISH: Here we go, that shows that this is all just a platform to bash Islam and Muslims. You can find ugly-sounding passages in the the Bible and the Torah and the Talmud and the Koran and try to misrepresent the faiths...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: My broader question is this: Is it not true that in response to

the terrorist attacks of 9/11, committed in the name of Islam by

Muslims...

IBISH: By terrorists.

CARLSON: The University of North Carolina is attempting to make a

statement to all freshmen that Islam does not represent what happened on

9/11? Of course.

IBISH: That's not how I interpret it. The way I interpret it is...

CARLSON: Come on, they interpret it that way.

IBISH: No, no, I think the university is saying to its freshman class, this is an extremely important part of world civilization and world culture that most Americans don't know about. They need to know about it. The president says we are in a war against -- hold on, no, the president says we are in a war against terrorism, not against Islam, so Americans obviously have a lot of questions about what Islam is all about and UNC is responding...

(CROSSTALK)

IBISH: Look, that is -- so you see, what lies behind this is an attempt to bash Islam and to blacken the name of one of the world's great faiths, and to insult one-fifth of humanity. There is, you know, I mean, when you have so many people who are believing...

(CROSSTALK)

GLOVER: Two hundred and fifty million Americans are upset about people

quoting the Koran flying airplanes into buildings.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Your response?

GLOVER: Well, I think that the key issue here is that UNC actually wants

to put kids' heads farther in the sand at a time when they really want

to know what it is in the Koran that teaches -- absolutely, by teaching

people everything but what the terrorists are quoting from the Koran as

reasons for justification to kill Christians and Jews.

IBISH: When we study the Bible as a literary text, as a cultural artifact, we do not spend a lot of time talking about the Spanish inquisition, slavery, the Holocaust, the conquest of the Americas and...

GLOVER: Look how far you have to go back to come up with such ridiculous

inci