Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Pack Rat

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Pack Rat

Article excerpt


Controversial before Sept. 11, controversial after Sept. 11, columnist Thomas proves himself a man for all seasons

The Washington press pack isn't known for pulling punches. But it's a scary new world right now. At a recent Washington dinner honoring a popular talking head, several pundits admitted they worry not only about inadvertently offending Arabs and Muslims in discussing America's war on terrorism but also about direct words or commentary that could provoke retaliatory threats against them or their families. Anthrax in the mail is a real concern. But one columnist unwilling to play it safe is Cal Thomas of Tribune Media Services (TMS).

Since Sept. 11, Thomas, a syndicated columnist read in 542 newspapers, has been writing about what he sees as the inherent difference between American values and those in the Muslim world, and what is at stake. "The growing number of extremists who take the Koran as a declaration of war against all non-Muslims has become a clear and present danger," he wrote in early October. He angered several Islamic representatives when he cited a fundamentalist Koran teaching: "Take not the Jews or Christians for your friends and protectors." He followed it with lines from the Koran urging Muslims to "fight against those who believe not in Allah," and to make war on other nations "until they embrace Islam."

"Americans, particularly the American press, don't pay attention to the words and acts of religious fanatics overseas. Worse, they don't take them seriously," Thomas said in a recent interview. He's studied the history of Islam, and the revisions of the Koran, and says America's refusal to follow news about religion, culture, and foreign countries puts us at an automatic disadvantage. Thomas believes it's one of the reasons the country was unprepared for the terrorist attacks and the fallout among many Muslims here and abroad.

While Thomas refuses to label himself as part of any Christian sect, it's well-known in Washington that he is deeply devout. "I'm a follower of Jesus, which has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with relationship," he said. Organized religion, he added archly, has been the basis for some of the worst atrocities in history.

Many Washington politicians are Thomas fans -- his columns are carried here by The Washington Times. A WTOP radio exec says the station gets terrific response to the two commentaries Thomas does weekly. Recently, Thomas' articles have touched on problems in immigration policy and potential pitfalls of political correctness. …

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