How a Barbara Walters Segment on the Afterlife Vilified Arabs and Muslims
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Instead, the clerics who represent these faiths come across as well-mannered individuals, often willing to have a laugh with Walters. Why then, when it came to Islam, did 20/20 choose to juxtapose a well-groomed elite with a scruffy criminal in a jail cell? Are American viewers to believe that it is only among Muslims that religiously-grounded militancy and intolerance exist, and thus should be examined in its journalistic report? Or were hateful Muslims the only violently religious individuals available for interviews with ABC? Did the team at ABC News even think of asking militants from other faiths to be interviewed for the show? Surely they know that thousands of Muslims have been massacred at the hands of Christian militias in Serbia and Lebanon or by Buddhists in Myanmar or Hindus in India?
ABC News didn't respond to several requests for comment.
Since Walters was chaperoned by Israeli security forces, did she consider examining the Israeli military as a whole, as an instrument of defending the Jewish state? ABC producers could also roll footage of civilian Israeli settlers, who frequently carry machine guns in public and whose attacks on Palestinians have risen dramatically over recent years, according to the Office of U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights.
In fact the very public hatred toward Palestinians was revealed earlier this month when many young Israelis openly called for the killing of a Palestinian boy who was taped being assaulted by border police.
But why does Walters need to travel halfway across the world to find militant religiosity when guns and prayer mix so openly in the United States? At the Assembly of God church, for example, worshipers have been encouraged to bring their weapons to services. In battle, US military chaplains and soldiers routinely pray before combat missions. And let’s not forget Lee Greenwood’s chart-topping hit “God Bless the USA,” the favorite anthem of former US Central Command Chief, General Norman Schwartzkopf who famously played the song while assembling his troops before going into Iraq in 1991.
In preparing for the “Heaven” episode, ABC producers clearly thought it was essential to examine the concept of killing in the name of conviction. But why was this phenomenon presented as uniquely Islamic or uniquely religious?
Could she not find a fanatical Protestant or Catholic Irish militiaman from that country’s bloody conflict? Or how about the US-based Christian Identity Movement, which is often associated with white supremacy?
Would it have been difficult for an ABC producer to find US military families who believe God protects the United States and calls on them to fight and die for its freedoms? Would it be difficult to find good, church-going US soldiers who say they are willing to kill enemies of the United States for the patriotic promise of protecting their families back home?
Now that 20/20 has tackled heaven, will they consider doing a show on "freedom?" If so, one would hope that the “Christian view” of this concept would not be represented by interviewing selected belligerents who may say they are willing to kill — or at least accept collateral damages — for it.