What Do Hollywood Actors Know?
by Stephen Schwartz
I am used to harsh criticism, much of it anonymous. Most comes from people who hate the idea that the majority of Muslims around the world are moderate, ordinary people practicing a moderate, ordinary religion. Mainstream, traditional, and conservative Muslims have more in common with Western Catholics and Jews than with the jihadist minority that wreaks terror throughout both Muslim and non-Muslim countries. But at present that is hard for Westerners to believe.
I also occasionally receive nasty notes from famous people who object to the struggle waged by me and my organization, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, against radical ideologies that dominate the American Muslim community.
Now comes a reputed member of the entertainment elite, Mike Farrell, with the intention of setting me straight. But let's back up. On August 30, I published a column here at FSM titled "Consorting With the Enemy." The text criticized U.S. and British authorities for maintaining an intimate relationship with such "Wahhabi lobby" apologists for extremism as the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and its devious chief, Salam al-Marayati. Lest we forget, al-Marayati issued the infamous comment, on September 11, 2001, "If we're going to look at suspects we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies."
In a September 6 article on The Daily Standard, I also opposed an award by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations to Maher Hathout, senior adviser to MPAC and an infamous, ranting demagogue against the U.S. and Israel. Hathout's "wisdom" includes praising two of the most destructive ideologues in Islamic history, Hassan al-Banna and Maulana Mawdudi, as religious "reformers." Al-Banna founded the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Mawdudi was the latter-day godfather of fundamentalist radicalism in India and Pakistan. Both preached that mainstream Islam is the same as unbelief and that moderate Muslims were enemies worthy of death.
Then came a message through a third-party. Mike Farrell, a star of the long-ago television drama MASH, had read my FSM article on MPAC and dismissed it as "tripe." Mr. Farrell preferred to rely on politically-correct arguments whitewashing MPAC. He is not alone. Some prominent moderate Muslims also refused to criticize MPAC, al-Marayati, or Hathout, arguing that the moderates had to keep good relations with these deceptive elements, and that opposing MPAC and Hathout is "a Jewish thing".
I do not know much about the life of a declining television star like Mike Farrell. I watch as much TV as anyone, but Mr. Farrell is a grey blur. He seems to have done a lot of work recently in "Superman" features, but I stopped reading comic books of that kind about 40 years ago. So what does a man who acts out superhero roles on television know about Islam? Like him, a whole species of babbling celebrities pullulates in Hollywood offering their opinions about Islam, al-Qaida, Iraq, and President Bush.
Yet Hollywood entertainment and the television "news" industry do little or nothing to explain to the American people, and others around the world such topics as: the spiritual war inside the Islamic faith, between radicals and normal believers; the origins of al-Qaida in the Saudi cult of Wahhabism, which is seldom, if ever, mentioned on broadcast news; or the terror war by Iraqi Sunnis against the Shia Muslims. Of course, it would be asking too much for Hollywood or television news to accurately assess the Bush democracy program for the Middle East.
Even when mainstream electronic media try (and largely succeed) in getting these issues right – as in the case of the ABC film "The Path to 9/11" – they are met with obloquy and threats from leftists. (At the same time, it must be said that even that excellent production notably lacked correct detail in its presentation of how Muslims pray.)
If Hollywood actors cannot fathom that they are the mentally-imprisoned playthings of a politicized class, who serve as enemies of democratic American values, what do they know? To be labeled a vendor of "tripe" by an actor in Superman shows would seem a compliment, not an insult.
Meanwhile, as noted elsewhere by other commentators, Maher Hathout is still scheduled to get his human relations award in Los Angeles on October 5.