Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The US Right's Real Message: Muslims Are the Enemy; Fundamentalist Christians Are Taking the Political Agenda Away from Washington and out to the Fringes

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The US Right's Real Message: Muslims Are the Enemy; Fundamentalist Christians Are Taking the Political Agenda Away from Washington and out to the Fringes

Article excerpt

Byline: James Fenton VIEW FROM AMERICA

ONE moment, yesterday, the Reverend Terry Jones was claiming God had given him a sign, and this sign had been enough to make him cancel his planned Koran-burning session tomorrow in Gainesville, Florida. Shortly afterwards, however, he was claiming he was lied to, though not perhaps by God. He thought that he had secured a deal whereby the socalled Ground Zero mosque would be shifted to a less controversial site. But there had been no such deal. No bargain had been struck. The Reverend Jones reportedly looked confused.

He has a remarkable number of distinguished critics: the Pope, for instance, and Angelina Jolie, and President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and General Petraeus. And then there's a fellow Christian fundamentalist, Sarah Palin, whose contribution to the argument has been to introduce the idea of moral equivalence. "Book-burning," she said, "is antithetical to American ideals. People have a constitutional right to burn the Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation -- much like building a mosque at Ground Zero."

This concept of sensitivity has been much kicked around. The anniversary of 9/11 was held, once, to be so sensitive that politicians would make a show of avoiding overt political activity on the date. Not this year, though, with Palin and the Mormon TV personality Glenn Beck joining forces for a $65-a-head rally in Alaska. And not in distant Florida, either, where the Reverend Jones was threatening his holy holocaust.

It's insensitive to plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero. Actually nobody is proposing this, although many Muslims lost their lives there. The proposed Muslim project is two city blocks north of the site. This too is held by many to be insensitive. But it took a mind like Sarah Palin's to find the act of building a mosque to be much like announcing a ceremonial burning of the Koran.

The Reverend Jones, a pastor with hardly any flock, a cult leader with a dodgy doctorate, who was expelled from his former church in Germany, has a mind that is rather like Sarah Palin's in this respect: his focus is on Armageddon. He is thinking all the time in terms of the battle between angels and demons.

Wherever Palin goes, we learn from an absorbing profile in Vanity Fair, her progress is covered by "prayer warriors", whom she will thank publicly from the podium. Prayer warriors are understood to be people who specialise in "asking God to direct an unseen battle between forces of light and darkness -- literally angels and demons -- that some Christians believe is occurring all around us".

So when Palin thanks these prayer warriors, she is talking about a sort of spiritual missile shield that follows her around the country. The messages that her prayer warriors send in to her are received, we learn, on one of an impressive three BlackBerries she carries around. …

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