On CNN, Muslim ‘Warrior’ Gets Sympathetic Treatment, Christians Are ‘Totalitarian’

Friday’s earlier post on CNN’s "God's Warriors" hinted that CNN and Christiane Amanpour gave Muslim "fundamentalists" in the U.S. sympathetic treatment, while they showed discomfort towards Christian conservatives. The original intention was to give examples of each in that post, but the distinction is so clear and important that it deserves its own separate post.

Bob Knight of MRC’s Culture and Media Institute detailed some examples of Amanpour’s biased treatment of Christian conservatives in his latest column. She spent the last 20 minutes of "God’s Christian Warriors" profiling the Battlecry Campaign of Ron Luce, an evangelical Christian who runs a larger organization called Teen Mania Ministries.

As Knight pointed out, Amanpour "couldn’t quite conceal her hostility" towards Luce. A partial transcript from this segment showing the full context of her rather-pointed questions clearly demonstrated this hostility.

Video (1:39): Real (1.21 MB) or Windows (1.03 MB), plus MP3 audio (759 kB).

AMANPOUR (voice-over): His [Luce's] ministry is located on 472 acres in rural east Texas.... Here, he trains teenagers how to spread his message.... They are the foot soldiers in Ron Luce's army for God.... They also serve as the backbone for BattleCry. They plan the events, act in them and even create their own media to combat today's mass media.... On campus, students must follow a strict set of rules.... No secular music or television. No "R"-rated movies. No alcohol. No drugs. No dating.

AMANPOUR (on camera): When I, you know, read that women have to wear skirts of a certain length, and guys aren't allowed to, you know, go on the Internet, unsupervised. And I think, you know, totalitarian regimes.

LUCE: No. It's about learning to have disciplines that communicate purity. You know? The skirts' length are to keep guys from -- you know, any man on the planet can be distracted, and we don't want to unintentionally create distraction.

AMANPOUR: But, Ron, that's what the Taliban said. They kept women in their house, because men couldn't be trusted around them.

LUCE: Well, there's extremists. You came to our campus. They did, your team did. They can see that we're not extremists. The kids are normal, and they have fun, and they wear normal clothes. It's just not -- it's not -- they've not adapted. We haven't adapted the dress code to the sexualization that's happened in our culture.

Amanpour is being more than a bit hyperbolic concerning how Luce and his organization treats his young female students. In the video accompanying her voice-over detailing Luce’s east-Texas campus, there are more than a few women visible who are wearing pants instead of skirts. The young woman featured immediately after Luce’s answer to Amanpour’s "Taliban" comment wore blue jeans during all of the time she appeared on-camera. She also obviously couldn’t tell the difference between the Taliban, who, as she said, "kept their women in their house," and the students on Luce’s campus, who are free to come and leave as they please.

It should also be pointed out that all of the people and groups detailed in "God’s Christian Warriors" belonged to conservative evangelical/Protestant Christianity. Other than Amanpour’s passing reference to "Catholic, Mormons, and social conservatives" joining Jerry Falwell in his Moral Majority, and stock footage of the annual pro-life March for Life in Washington, DC in which a protester praying the Rosary is prominent, there is no significant mention of other conservatives in the program. The evangelicals are clearly a bigger "boogeyman" for CNN and Amanpour.

By contrast, Amanpour spent a whole segment detailing the plight of Muslims in the U.S. The six-and-a-half minute segment, titled "A Personal Jihad," profiled Rehan Seyam, an American-born Muslim of Egyptian descent who, in Amanpour’s words, is a "jihadist, just not the sort you’re thinking of."

The following partial transcript demonstrates the clear sympathetic treatment Seyam and her fellow American Muslims received from Amanpour.

Video (2:07): Real (1.54 MB) or Windows (1.29 MB), plus MP3 audio (965 kB)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): She's a lifelong American.... Born and raised in Islip, Long Island.... But Rehan Seyam is a jihadist, just not the sort you're thinking of.

SEYAM: The word jihad means struggle. I treat me wearing hijab in the United States as a struggle, jihad itself, struggle. That's my jihad. I mean, holy war, really? Who made that up? That's really a very bad translation. It's a self-struggle. Living in a secular society, where you have to work to maintain your Islamic values, that's jihad.

AMANPOUR: Rehan Seyam's parents came here from Egypt. They were devout. But, like so many immigrant children, she was a typically Americanized teenager.

SEYAM: So, when I would be called to pray by my parents, I would just run between commercial breaks, and wash up and pray, and run back, and hopefully I didn't miss my TV show.

AMANPOUR: But, as she grew up and went to college in what was now a post-9/11 world, she began to get closer to Islam. And, one morning, she made a decision that would change her life, to wear the hijab, the traditional Muslim head scarf.

SEYAM: It was very dramatic for me. And I remember how -- like, even now, thinking about it, it really does make my heart beat a little bit faster, because I was making a decision I knew was permanent. You put on hijab, you don't take it off. So, I said, that's it.

AMANPOUR: Rehan's jihad isn't violence, not even close, but it is public. It is a deliberate display of faith, not just covering her head, but swearing off alcohol, praying five times a day, which isn't easy in a typically busy American life.... For Rehan and her husband, Rahmi... and most practicing Muslims, Islam is their identity. It shapes every aspect of who they are.

SEYAM: Islam is a way of life. Ask anyone who practices. They will tell you, it's not just your religion. A lot of people go to the church on Sunday, and that's their religion for their week. Mine is every single day, every minute of my day.

AMANPOUR: Islam even shaped their courtship. Rahmi asked Rehan's parents for permission before he asked her out.

SEYAM: I like that. I was like, he's, like -- he's religious, like, I could tell he wasn't going to try to meet me without any sort of, like, parental notification.

Islam shaped Seyam and her husband’s courtship? Could you imagine Amanpour’s reaction if one of the BattleCry students had said that their Christianity shaped their courtship?

Amanpour continued her profile of Seyam by focusing on her use of the Islamic veil, the hijab.

AMANPOUR: Rehan insists that covering up is not a sign of a woman's inferiority, as many Westerners believe, but a sign that Muslim women refuse to be degraded, as she feels they can be in American culture.

SEYAM: I don't want any guy looking at me, except for my husband, provocatively. Why would I want that? Why do I want to be a piece of meat?

Amanpour brought in author and religious historian Karen Armstrong, who was featured on all three segments of "God’s Warriors," to comment on this statement by Muslim women, since she as a former Catholic nun wore a habit, which is similar to the hijab.

KAREN ARMSTRONG, RELIGIOUS HISTORIAN: In some ways, it was very liberating. For seven whole years I never had once to think about my hairstyle, my makeup, my clothes. I never had to wear man-pleasing garments. I never had to fill my head with the junk that society tells women, to trivialize their lives about.

Earlier, Armstrong even came to the defense of Islam during Amanpour’s examination of Islamic fundamentalists’ treatment of women.

KAREN ARMSTRONG, RELIGIOUS HISTORIAN: It's important to say that none of the great world religions has been good for women, not a single one of them.

AMANPOUR: Religious historian Karen Armstrong says that Islam's Prophet Mohammed was actually ahead of his time when it came to women.

ARMSTRONG: The Koran gives women rights of inheritance and divorce that Western women would not receive until the 19th century. There is nothing in the Koran about all women having to be veiled or secluded in a certain part of the house. That came in later.

Unsuprisingly, Amanpour didn’t challenge Armstrong’s claim about Mohammed, who had 11 or 13 wives, and consummated the marriage to his "favorite" wife Aisha when she was nine years old.

Steve Kellmeyer of "The Fifth Column" blog (hat tip to Dawn Eden of The Dawn Patrol blog) pointed out in a column before the airing of "God’s Warriors" that the Jewish settlers on the West Bank featured in "God’s Jewish Warriors" drew their inspiration from the Book of Ezekiel. In fact, the verse from the Book of Ezekiel is only one of two religious texts that are directly cited in the six hours of programming of the miniseries, and it also appears prominently on the screen. Amanpour’s only other reference made to a religious text by name in "God’s Jewish Warriors" is that "in the Jewish bible, the Torah, the Book of Genesis says God gave this land to the Jewish people."

There is no direct reference to any passage in the Koran in "God’s Muslim Warriors." There are only three indirect references - the indirect reference by Armstrong mentioned above; a reference by religious historian Bruce Lawrence that in Islamist suicide bombers’ "interpretation of scripture, [their] reading of the Koran, martyrs go to paradise;" and in an interview of the family of a Palestinian gunman killed after he opened fire on Israelis, Amanpour mentioned that "the Koran says that suicide is haram, that you don't go to heaven if you kill yourself."

The "Christian Warriors" featured by Amanpour do talk about the Bible. For example, John Hagee, a pastor and "Christian Zionist" from Texas, made the second of two direct references to religious texts in the entire series, when he cited Genesis 12:3, that God "will bless those who bless you [the Jewish people] and I will curse those who curse you." But the only reference to a religious text by name by Amanpour in "God’s Christian Warriors" is her mention that "fifty-three percent, that's more than half of all Americans, believe in creationism, that God created the earth and everything on it, as it says in the book of Genesis."

Not everything in "God’s Warriors" is biased. In fact, Amanpour should be applauded for her profile of one of the "founding fathers" of modern Islamic radicalism, Sayyid Qutb, in "God’s Muslim Warriors," a figure who is not as well-known by Westerners as he should be. Also, while Amanpour did show her apparent hostility to Ron Luce and his BattleCry ministry in the last 20-minutes of "God’s Christian Warriors," her coverage of a BattleCry protest in front of San Francisco’s city hall did, perhaps inadvertently, show the organization in a good light, as the protest’s opponents came out in strength in their own display of intolerance towards Christians (as mentioned by Bob Knight in his column).

As Amanpour closed out her miniseries at the BattleCry concert in San Francisco, she said that "what struck me [at the BattleCry concert in San Francisco] was one woman in the wings." This young woman, named Jodie Dickens, poured out her heart about her love of God, as Amanpour listened sympathetically. This moment even "choked-up" one analyst for MRC. But it is clear that Amanpour approached the subject of "religious fundamentalism" from a more secular perspective.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center