Media Watch: Will we really love Muslims for 100 years?

A New York magazine has attacked the “We’ll Love Muslims for 100 years” campaign reported by Eternity online recently as “useful idiots for Hamas”.

The flavour of FrontPage Magazine is perhaps best described by repeating its headlines: “Obama’s Alliance with Boko Haram” and “Michael Brown Funeral: Cop Lynching Pep rally” as well as milder ones like “Islam’s Crackdown on Women and the media’s silence”.

FrontPage Magazine appears to have picked up the Australia-based story from other right-wing Jewish sites, which got their reports by via the Jewish Telegraph Agency – a newsagency like AAP.

The phrase “Useful idiots” allegedly comes from a comment by Lenin about naïve supporters of Communism in the west.

For FrontPage Magazine, any co-operation with Muslims by Jews or Christians appears to means that the non-Muslims are being cynically used.

The campaign's headline has attracted criticism from some in the Christian community.

The campaign’s headline has attracted criticism from some in the Christian community.

Eternity has been approached by some readers to find out how true the “useful idiots” tag is for the “We’ll Love Muslims 100 years” campaign, initiated by Adelaide paster Brad Chilcott who runs Activate church, a member of Australian Christian Churches.

Brad Chilcott told Eternity that the “We’ll Love Muslims for 100 years” campaign was his idea and he drew other people into it. The campaign was in response to a page-one banner heading in Weekend Australian on August 9, “We’ll fight Islam for 100 years”. (In the online version of the story the headline was changed to “We’ll fight radical Islam for 100 years”).

World Vision CEO Tim Costello, Uniting Church Assembly President Andrew Dutney, and Baptist World Aid CEO John Hickey signed on to the “We’ll Love Muslims for 100 years” online petition.

Launch events were held in Adelaide, Perth and outside the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney.

Former South Australian Premier, now Anglican Deacon Lynn Arnold told SBS: “We hope to be a kind of antibiotic against this virus that is spreading around the community because we all have many Muslim friends who are feeling targeted, are being targeted by this campaign of inflammation, this campaign of hate.”

Brad Chilcott told Eternity that he approached members of “Together for Humanity” (TFH) to be part of the 100-year campaign.

TFH tours representatives of groups often considered to be antagonistic, often Jews and Muslims, to schools around Australia with the message that we can live together. TFH launched in 2010 with $1 million in funding by the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Training.

Chilcott has worked with members of TFH before and describes them as well regarded in their communities. Rabbi Zalman Kastel, who is national Director of TFH, was prominent at the 100-year campaign launch.

FrontPage Magazine’s coverage juxtaposes a picture of the Lakemba Mosque event with images of violent Muslim protesters earlier this year in Sydney, suggesting that the violent images cancel out the “100 years” event.

The magazine also attempts to cast Rabbi Kastel as some sort of renegade from the ultra orthodox Chabad movement. It states “Kastel appears to have been associated with Chabad of the North Shore in Sydney.”

It would have been more accurate to point out that Chabad Northside currently lists him as giving a seminar each week. Just like Christian churches who guard their pulpits, synagogues are careful about who can run meetings.

Searching the local Jewish publications, often critical of those outside the Jewish mainstream, shows nothing adverse about Kastel, who is listed as lecturing at community adult education classes and taking part in Sydney Jewish Museum activities.

FrontPage Magazine also attacks Madenia Abdurahman the President of TFH who is also the President of Muslim Aid Australia.

Muslim Aid is a worldwide NGO and FrontPage Magazine is able to point to stories where Muslim Aid has been accused of passing money to on-the-ground organisations which have had links to Hamas, and other terror groups. It is clear there has been a pattern of Muslim Aid having to cut ties with groups on the ground with dubious links.

But FrontPage Magazine doesn’t report that Muslim Aid was investigated by the British Charities Commission in 2010 over the Gaza links and were cleared.

Muslim Aid has also been infiltrated. In 2013, terrorists were convicted in the UK after posing as Muslim Aid workers to collect money to fund explosives. Muslim Aid had tipped off the authorities about the plotters.

This month Muslim Aid has joined with World Vision, Lutheran World Aid, catholic agency Cafod and two other Islamic Aid agencies in a joint statement condemning violence against Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups in northern Iraq.

“We are appealing for immediate action for the protection of all people, including Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen and other persecuted groups, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled in fear for their lives”.

Another criticism of “100 years” was raised by an Eternity reader Spencer Gear, who described the Eternity news story as “one of the most imbalanced pieces of Christian journalism I’ve read in a while”.

Gear, an independent researcher from Brisbane, suggested we should have included some of the verses in the Quran that advocate violence against Christians. “The tone of ecumenism that you promoted in this article is a camouflage for the hate and violence towards unbelievers that the Muslim Quran advocates,” he said.

Gear was particularly upset at the quote from Brad Chilcott “We want to let our Muslim brothers and sisters know that we agree that they’re being unfairly targeted”.

We put this to Chilcott who confirmed that he was speaking of Muslims as brothers and sisters in light of their common humanity, rather than implying that the groups shared the same religion.

Chilcott added that it was hypocritical of Christians making this criticism to extend the term ‘brothers and sister’ to groups like the Westboro Baptist Church who preach hate, while criticising people for using it of groups who want peace.