O’Reilly’s Muslim-Hatred and Christian Terrorists

Television commentator Bill O’Reilly lambasted the press for referring to Anders Breivik as a Christian terrorist, on the grounds that he is not a practicing Christian and on the grounds that no true Christian can be a terrorist and on the grounds that Christian fundamentalists are essentially different from Muslim fundamentalists (“those crazy jihadis”).

O’Reilly, who has engaged in hate speech toward Muslims of the sort that inspired Breivik’s violence, is in part trying to change the discussion so that his guilt in fostering an atmosphere of rancor is not brought up. The in-your-face pundit has insisted that “Muslims killed us on 9/11,” the kind of ‘shouting fire in a theater” discourse that could easily get people killed.

In fact, O’Reilly is a specialist in bullying, violent rhetoric. He wished that the Katrina hurricane hit the United Nations building and he “wouldn’t have rescued them,” a tasteless and callous way to refer to the deaths of over 4,000 persons in New Orleans and a transposition of that tragedy to New York city. Ironically, the UN building was one of five New York landmarks that al-Qaeda wanted to blow up. I’m not sure it is really a Christian sentiment that O’Reilly gives us here.

As for O’Reilly’s comments on the Norway massacre, Breivik is a “cultural Christian,” believing in a monocultural Christian Europe, and said he wants Protestants to return to the fold of Catholicism so as to present a united front. He also had a cult of the Knights Templar. I mean, it is not as if he is a Buddhist.

Ironically, Breivik’s form of Christianity is precisely like the “Islam” of many Muslim fundamentalists, who are only nominal Muslims but see the religion as a bulwark against Western dominance. Many of the al-Qaeda figures were not particularly pious. Thus, September 11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah was from a secular Sunni family (an uncle was a Baathist) and he had a live-in Turkish girlfriend, and danced at a wedding not long before his horrible mass murder spree.

Since O’Reilly insists that Jarrah was a Muslim, we’d have on the same grounds to insist that Breivik is a Christian.

It is darkly humorous to see O’Reilly annoyed at Christianity being tarred with the brush of Breivik; now he knows what it was like for Muslims who had nothing to do with al-Qaeda (i.e. almost all of them) to suddenly fall under a cloud because of the actions of a small number of militants.

What of the argument that whereas a true Christian could never murder because the New Testament forbids it, the Qur’an commands holy war against infidels?

It is not actually clear that the New Testament is a pacifist document. Jesus says he brings a “sword.” Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest who came to arrest his master; you can’t cut off someone’s ear with a broadsword unless you were trying to kill him. [Update: Christian pacifists see Jesus' statement as metaphorical and point to his rebuke of Peter. But we cannot know that the statement was metaphorical, and the rebuke may have been tactical rather than about principle; Peter certainly hadn't imbibed pacifist principles as of that point. In the context of the [pdf] Jewish messianic movements of late antiquity, pacifism is a little unlikely. Ideas of ethical non-retaliation by individuals also existed in rabbinical Judaism, but did not rule out war by states.) And it was certainly Christian authorities who called for, e.g., the Crusades.

But it is equally important to stress that the Qur’an forbids murder. The command to fight in the Qur’an is against militant polytheists of Mecca who were trying to wipe out the Muslims– i.e. it is about self-defense. Islamic law forbids terrorizing people or depriving people of life and property when they have done nothing wrong. Christians and Jews in traditional Muslim society were under the law guaranteed the right to life and property, though of course in the real world sometimes there were pogroms (just as Christians conducted pogroms against Muslims and Jews despite the fine words in the New Testament). Classical Muslim law forbids individual laypersons just to declare jihad one morning; it has to be declared by duly constituted Muslim authorities. Today’s Muslim terrorists are not authorized by any major Muslim religious authority, and have been condemned by all the ones that count. O’Reilly’s insinuation that a “state” backs Muslim terrorism reminds us of his confident predictions that it would be revealed that Iraqi resources flowed into the 9/11 operation (they did not).

So the “jihadis” are no more exemplars of believing Islam than Breivik is of believing Christianity. O’Reilly delivered himself of a self-loving and bigotted diatribe typical of the main themes of Muslim-hating in America, a discourse that is attended with inherent dangers of violence.

As for whether believing Christians can be terrorists, of course they can. The Crusades often involved terrorism (the use of violence against innocent civilians by non-state actors for political purposes). They don’t call it the Wars of Religion in France for nothing (they are why France is not today a largely Protestant country). There were some believing priests in the IRA (again, they may have had legitimate grievances, but killing innocents is not OK). More recently we have the example of the murders of physicians who perform surgery to terminate pregnancies. ( O’Reilly’s campaign of vilification against one such physician, it is alleged, may not have been irrelevant to his murder). Or post-colonial movements like the Lord’s Resistance Army.

O’Reilly is just engaged in special pleading. He is embarrassed at how much like his own diatribes parts of Anders Breivik’s Manifesto sound. Ironically, he uses exactly the same arguments about the transcendental virtue of Christianity that Muslim fundamentalists use about Islam.

O’Reilly, that self-proclaimed exemplar of Christianity, has ambushed guests and whipped up bigotry and sexually harassed co-workers (remember the loofah? Or was it a felafel?). That he is a major voice on American television tells you how weird the media environment is in the US. Imagine what it was like for Norwegians to hear that Glenn Beck had compared the innocent children shot down by Breivik to Hitler Youth. And now they will hear from O’Reilly that Breivik was a) not a Christian and b) that Breivik’s views on Islam and Muslims were correct. American “news” is being Breivikized before our eyes.

13 Responses

  1. I remember during the Kosovo War, O’Reilly called for attacks on Serbian civilians which he justified on the grounds that the Serbs had democratically elected Milosevic and thus were responsible for his decisions.

    Of course, Thomas Friedman felt the same way, so its not necessarily contained to the right.

  2. Great points re. the Qur’an, Prof Cole.

    Two points re. the New Testament, though. First, Jesus’ use of “the sword” is clearly metaphorical, not meant to advocate actually taking up arms. Second, Jesus rebukes Peter after he cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. So in other words, the writer of the Gospel of John clearly teaches that Peter’s action here was wrong (John 18:10-11).

    But your overall point in this post is right on. Much more could be said, and has been said, about the rank hypocrisy of pseudo-Christians like B. O’Reilly.

  3. Raised as a mainstream Christian, i.e. in one of the big three non-Anglican protestant churches, it took me a while to see Christianity with better vision. I guess you could say I was born again when I came to realize mainstream Christianity offers an improper bargain.

    An improper bargain in this case is where the newly converted gains the powers of a godlike being, namely immortality and the ability to judge others to the point of deciding who is saved and who is not, merely by agreeing to “believe on” him. I have never quite figured out the difference between believing_on Jesus and believing_in Jesus, or merely believing Jesus, but I suspect it is more beatific to believe_on than to merely believe.

    It is improper because by subverting human powers of reason, a person becomes less rather than more, and really should not be telling others whether they are saved or not.

    I also suspect Jesus was a Buddhist, but that is a story for another day. Back to this diatribe….

    So there we have all these people who willingly cripple their own mental abilities deciding they are thusly empowered to judge others. It’s almost as bad as the special pleading that makes Judaism what it is today, namely ‘special.’

    So, whenever I encounter Muslims in America, and I do with increasing frequency, I see them as a third segment of the Judaical tradition, but less encumbered by the belief they are special. I tend to want to protect them from wackos like Glenn Beck, brutal low-lifes like Billie O’Reilly (who was obviously touched by the priesthood, if you know what I mean), and whatever Hannity thinks, if you can call his random mutterings actual thought. At least there are no Muslims in Bolivia where Douglas Feith wants to bomb them. Or Uruguay. Or Paraguay. One of the -guays.

    There, I feel better now.

  4. Hi Dr. Cole,
    Once again, I thank you for your tireless and professionally risky work.
    Nevertheless, I would implore you to never again use the term ” Breivikized.” That term lends power to this monster, that should not be forgotten, but it should also not enter our lexicon. He deserves not notoriety – because that is what his ego desperately wants, but an eternity of obscurity.

    All the best; please keep pressing on: Your efforts and risks are achieving positive results.
    Craig.

  5. Not to nitpick, but as I recall, it wasn’t a soldier whose ear got cut off, but a slave of the high priest. Jesus rebuked Peter for it and healed the slave.

  6. Professor Cole you have been in your ivory tower too long.
    You are used to social commerce with “high functioning” minds and have forgotten the vast numbers of us who are fully liberated from any sense of honor or shame.

    You are wrong to project feelings of embarrassment on Bill O. You have no evidence that he has ever felt that emotion.

    You have too high an opinion of humanity; and if you get down with the Lumpen sometime you will find that Bill O., Beck etc are far ABOVE the mean when it comes to intelligence, compassion, the use of fact for the formation of opinion etc.

    In other words, it ain’t too pretty down here.

    I may understand your condition. I also stay hopeful despite lack of evidence that we are not doomed. It’s a sickness.

    Secondly, Grandma used to say “Choose your enemies well.
    You’re going to get their blood on you”. Bill O. is to scholarship what Jerry Lewis is to what? Astronomy? Bicycle racing? Bill O. is not in your game. He does not matter.

    Yours,

    Vilis

  7. Thank you for the clear explication of this, Mr. Cole – I’ll be pointing many people toward it.

    A minor quibble, though: I’m not confident that your examples for Christianity not being peaceful are apt. According to the NT, Jesus strongly rebuked Peter (who often did what he ought not, like lying about knowing Jesus after promising him that he’d never so do) for cutting off the centurion’s ear, and healed the wound. And I am given to understand that that sword he brought was metaphorical – I’d note that the whole point of Palm Sunday was that Jesus would not embrace violence, even in the face of Roman oppression of the Jews. Jesus may have turned over some tables, but he never raised a hand to any human, nor condoned doing so, even to the end. Cases have been made that Christianity need not be peaceful (and certainly, Christians have been horrifyingly violent, and used the Bible to justify that violence), but I do not believe that these two examples can be used toward building such a case.

    As I said, a minor quibble, but a quibble, nonetheless…

  8. Breivik reminds me more of the Fort Hood shooter, or the Unabomber, than Mohamed Atta (the 9-11 hijacker who spent time with Las Vegas hookers). I think he’s a lone super-nut. Christianity should not be tarred with the brush of Breivik. But it’s already been twisted and disgraced by right-wing televangelists.

  9. “Muslims killed us on 9/11,…lol…Not ol muslims killed u dude! common sense…there are millions muslims in the world!so how muslims kill u?

  10. Yes, Julian, it IS clear that the New Testament is a pacifist document. Jesus did say that he came to bring ‘not peace but a sword’, but if you compare this with everything else he said, it is obvious that he was speaking metaphorically.

    Peter did cut off the ear of a soldier who came to arrest Jesus, but he was rebuked by Jesus who healed the wound.

  11. That he is a major voice on American television tells you how weird the media environment is in the US.
    Here we hear a more subtle discourse : that he was a deranged mind and that like all those type of killers would look for any rationalisation to wrap up his bad instincts into something more palatable to his eyes, that this kind of persons can take left wing, right wing or even environmental pretexts, whichever doesn’t matter, but it has nothing to do with the ideology they support, but with their madness.
    You have eminent psychiatric experts telling so in the more serious papers.
    I think that it is an easy way to discount the nastiness of those right wing ideologies.

  12. Hey Bill-O, some Bush logic for you: If you’re not with us and Norway, you must be with the Christian Terrorists.

Comments are closed.