Creeping Fundamentalism III: Mel Gibson, purveyor of hate

It’s striking how quickly an accusation becomes presumed guilt and then a cliche detached from any need for proof. Consider the speed with which Karen Russell, a trial attorney appearing on MSNBC’s Abrams Report, mentions Mel Gibson as a hatemonger, as if this is an indisputable fact.

Russell was on the show to discuss Debbie Rowe’s custody battle with her ex-husband, Michael Jackson, and the discussion soon touched on Jackson’s recent solidarity with the Nation of Islam. Let’s go to the transcript:

RUSSELL: I feel like that the Nation of Islam is the only religious group that is allowed to be bashed with just reckless abandon. I mean we’re having this whole debate about

ABRAMS: Well, they’re also overtly anti-Semitic. Other religions aren’t sort of as overt in their disdain for other religious.

RUSSELL: Well you know what? Actually Jerry Falwell is very overt in his disdain for Islam and for Muslims, as is Pat Robertson and other fundamentalists, so there is open disdain at the top for other religions, you know. There’s Mel Gibson and

Contrast Russell’s views with those of a Muslim who attended a screening of The Passion of the Christ earlier this week in La Crosse, Wisc. Gayda Hollnagel of the La Crosse Tribune interviewed various religious leaders after a screening arranged by the First Evangelical Free Church of Onalaska:

“It’s definitely going to increase the faith of the faithful,” said Wahhab Khandker, a local Muslim leader and member of the Islamic Center of Greater La Crosse.

Khandker, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse economics professor, said he thought Gibson’s depiction was true to biblical scriptures and also to the Koran, which honors Jesus as a prophet but not as the Messiah.

The film projected the same message of peace and love preached by both faiths, Khandker said.

Khandker attended the screening at the invitation of his friend Patrick Augustine, an Episcopal priest and a native of Pakistan. In an email to friends, Augustine described how Khandker sobbed during the film, adding that “several times he held my hand and tried to share his feeling with me.”

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