This is the fifth Huffpost excerpt from my new book, 101 People Who Are REALLY Screwing America (and Bernard Goldberg is Only #73), a corrective/purgative/laxative to Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37). It's liberals, of course, who control America today and are therefore responsible for almost all of its ills. Accordingly, Goldberg's book included, by my count, 81 liberals, 7 minor conservatives, and 12 others. Not one member of the Bush administration. Nor one Republican member of Congress, or lobbyist, or money-man. No one responsible for the Iraq disaster; the pre-9/11 "intelligence" failures; illegal spying on Americans; sanctioning secret detention and torture; trying to subvert the Constitution by giving the president quasi-dictatorial powers; gutting our environmental laws; rewarding polluters, strip-miners, and other land-rapers; suppressing scientific information about global warming, AIDs prevention, and consumer safety; or working to replace science education with Christian-fundamentalist claptrap. I've got all these covered. Goldberg just has the real villains of our day--like Phil Donahue, Tim Robbins, Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, and Jimmy Carter.
This week's bad guy won his spot in my book as much by "virtue" of the trend he represents as by his own contributions--not that those don't call for lots of teeth-gnashing and garment-rending.
#88: Richard Wilkins and the Mormon-Evangelical-Islamo-Fascist Axis of Extreme Evil
Richard Wilkins was the mayor of Sunnydale in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who sold his soul to demons in return for never aging. But the Richard Wilkins we're concerned with is a law professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah who has literally made a pact with different demons.
In recent years, while leaders of the Christian right have made a habit of attacking Islam with some of most lively and colorful vilification in the history of American religious bigotry (JERRY FALWELL: Muhammad was "a demon possessed-pedophile" and "a terrorist"; also see #9, 55, and 84), some, recognizing the affinities between Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, have forged ties even with Islamic clerics and governments that endorse jihad against America--all for the greater good of attacking homosexuality, women's rights, and the rest of the moral corruption for which Western societies must and will be destoyed by the hand of God.
Wilkins heads the World Family Policy Center (WFPC) at BYU, which is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka the Mormons. He also runs the Web site DefendMarriage.org. Both entities are devoted to "defending the family," meaning, of course, above all, fighting gay marriage. Also fighting against homosexuality itself, abortion rights, birth control, condom use, sex education, secularism, women having careers, women going outside with their faces uncovered...(you'll see; one step at a time). In November 2004, Wilkins and the WFPC helped organize a conference in Doha, Qatar that brought together the Mormons, Cardinal ALFONSO TRUJILLO, who campaigns against condoms on behalf of the Catholic church, and MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, the former Malaysian prime minister who jailed his deputy for alleged homosexuality. Mohamad has also suggested that those killed on 9/11 were, like civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, just "collaterals whose deaths are necessary for operations to succeed," and that "the Jews rule the world by proxy" and "get others to fight and die for them." (But, he added, "1.3 billion people [Muslims] cannot be simply wiped out," as the Jews evidently intend.)
Dominating the Doha conference was SHEIKH YUSUF AL-QARADAWI, dean of Qatar's College of Shariah and Islamic Studies. Regarded by some as the world's foremost Islamic scholar, Qaradawi approves of wife-beating and the death penalty for sodomy and believes that "resisting the invaders" of Iraq is a religious duty. He has been accused of supporting suicide bombers and has been banned from the U.S. since 1999 for advocating violence and for spelling his name with a Q rather than an identical-sounding K. Qaradawi is famous throughout the Arab world for his appearances on Qatar-based al-Jazeera television, and in 2001 visited the Vatican as a guest of the Pope. He also supervises IslamOnline.net, where, as Brian Whitaker reported in the Guardian, he describes homosexuality as an abominable, depraved, foul, and illicit practice that is punished by eternity in the fires and reality shows of hell, and oral sex as a disgusting western practice resulting from westerners' habit of "stripping naked during sexual intercourse." (See diagram, p. 483.) IslamOnline provides links to and "scientific" information from U.S. Christian groups like United Families International, which blames condoms and sex education for the spread of HIV, and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which promotes "sexual reorientation therapy" to "cure" gays. NARTH, whose views are rejected by all the main professional bodies in the U.S., Whitaker notes, "reciprocates by welcoming IslamOnline's 'very useful contribution to the on-going dialogue.'"
The Qatar government--which sponsored the conference and assigned Wilkins and the WFPC to arrange preliminary meetings in other countries--"rejects basic family rights legislation such as the international Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women...using 'religious precepts' as an excuse," Whitaker noted. (Qatar also owns al-Jazeera, whose views are perhaps reflected by the Al Qaeda tapes it broadcasts.) The Doha conference was officially held to "celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UN's Year of the Family," but "in reality, it brought together some of the world's most socially conservative religious forces" to "'defend the family' and fight progressive social policies" at the UN.
A week after the conference, Wilkins' lobbying efforts somehow got a Qatar-sponsored, "pro-family," anti-women's rights resolution approved by the UN General Assembly--without a vote. "For the first time at the UN, we had the anti-family powers scrambling by surprising them," the Mormon magazine, Meridian, boasted.
But it wasn't the first time these seemingly disparate forces of darkness had joined forces to fight social progress. In 1996, at the UN's Habitat 2 conference in Istanbul, where delegates sought recognition of the fact that "various forms of the family exist" and are perhaps entitled to "legal support," Wilkins gave a speech challenging this. It won him a warm embrace by the Saudi ambassador and persuaded the Arab delegations not to sign the Habitat agenda unless it was altered to define "marriage" as a relationship between "husband and wife" and to delete all references to abortion. And so it came to pass. The event is known to "pro-family" activists as The Istanbul Miracle.
The Christian and Muslim far right got even cozier in 2000 at the UN's Beijing+5 conference to promote "gender equality in the 21st century," where they banded together to keep out of the agreement language that could be construed as condoning abortion or suggesting that women should have the right to work outside the home. Joining in this holy alliance were the Vatican and countries like Iran, Algeria, Syria, Libya, and Pakistan. Meanwhile, as Michael Lind noted in the Observer, "the Taliban in Afghanistan were banning women from working and forcing them to wear the veil" while "the Southern Baptist Convention urged wives to 'submit graciously to the servant leadership of their husbands.'"
But the logic of a Christian-Islamist axis could be discerned years earlier. In 1989, the conservative Catholic pundit/politician PAT BUCHANAN--a frequent critic of Israel who has defended accused Nazi war criminals and praised Hitler and Francisco Franco--denounced SALMAN RUSHDIE for writing "a defamatory novel [The Satanic Verses], a blasphemous assault on the faith of hundreds of millions." The same year, when a caller to Larry King asked conservative moralist WILLIAM BENNETT, then the U.S. drug czar, "Why build prisons? Get tough like Arabia. Behead the damned drug dealers," Bennett replied, "morally, I don't have any problem with that at all," and went on to call for more executions in the U.S.
This axis, like others we've known and loved, is actually a triangle, its third corner made up of neo-fascist European politicians, such as France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, Austria's Jörg Haider, and Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who whip up hatred of Muslim immigrants and other minorities yet have found common cause with Islamists and/or with the U.S. religious right in opposing women's rights and vilifying Jews. (Hitler himself was a total "traditional family values" guy who wanted women to focus on having babies fur das Vaterland and declared, in signing the Nazi-Vatican Concordat, that "secular schools can never be tolerated.")
But more than any other Western country, on social issues, it is the U.S., "with a president who sounds increasingly like an old-fashioned imam," wrote Whitaker, that "now sits in the religious camp alongside the Islamic regimes."
America's Christian right shares one especially noteworthy belief with the radical Islamists: that America brought SEPTEMBER 11 upon itself. As Jerry Falwell said (and #55, Pat Robertson amened) shortly after 9/11: "[T]he pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians...the ACLU, People for the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen'...[God] allow[ed] the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
"The murders of abortion providers [see #69] show what such zeal can lead to," wrote conservative gay Catholic journalist (hope I have that in the right order) Andrew Sullivan:
If people truly believe that abortion is the same as mass murder, then you can see the awful logic of the terrorism it has spawned. This is the same logic as bin Laden's...If you believe that women should be consigned to polygamous, concealed servitude, then Manhattan must appear like Gomorrah. If you believe that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death, as both fundamentalist Islam and the Bible dictate, then a world of same-sex marriage is surely Sodom. It is not a big step to argue that such centers of evil should be destroyed or undermined, as bin Laden does.
By the way, in February 2005, a Utah judge was found to have three wives. The state and the Mormon church banned polygamy in 1890, but as the judge's attorney pointed out, the statute is rarely enforced. In Utah, at least--home to the biggest Bush majority of any state, and to about 30,000 polygamists--really traditional family values live!