CNN documentary examines extremism in Judaism, Islam, Christianity

Daily News Egypt
8 Min Read

CAIRO: CNN will air a six-hour television event examining the impact of the rise of religious fundamentalism as a powerful political force in three faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Under the title of “God’s Warriors, the documentary will be aired this week in three parts, each examining a different religion.

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour traveled to eight countries over eight months to report for the documentary.

“God’s Warriors is an investigation of religion as a political force, at a time when religious activism is a signature cultural phenomenon of our times, said Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions.

For this documentary, Amanpour reports that during the last 30 years, each faith has exploded into a powerful political force, comprised of followers – “God’s warriors – who share a deep dissatisfaction with modern society, and a fierce determination to place God and religion back into daily life and to the seats of power.

Their political and cultural struggles to save the world from what they view as secular materialism, greed and sexual corruption have caused anger, division and fear.

The first part, God’s Jewish Warriors, draw inspiration from the Book of Ezekiel: “Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers. For them, Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967 meant the fulfilment of prophecy: When Jews return to their homeland and live according to the Torah, the Messiah can come.

Following the war that redesigned the map of the Middle East and proscribed the boundaries of Israel, Jewish settlements in the territory have become the central uncompromising principle of the Jewish warriors.

Though the settlements are controversial, violate international law and have inspired violent retribution from the million Muslim Palestinians living under Jewish sovereignty, Jewish settlers and the Jewish Underground have been willing to use politics and vigilante justice to avenge the occupied territory in the name of peace.

In a two-hour program that goes behind-the-scenes of historical events, “God’s Jewish Warriors reports how Christian Zionists in America are raising large sums of money to support the activities of the settlers and lobby Congress for policies supportive of the settlements in Gaza.In the second instalment, “God’s Muslim Warriors Geneive Abdo, author of “Mecca and Main Street, says that since 9/11, a majority of US Muslims report feeling targeted by the government and ordinary citizens for suspicion of terrorism.

A recent Pew Forum poll, the first to measure American Muslim attitudes, found that young Muslims were almost twice as likely as their parents to attend mosque and identify themselves as Muslim first and Americans second.

Perhaps most unsettling was the measurement that 26 percent felt that suicide bombings can sometimes be justified.

Rehan Seyam is a young Muslim who feels that her commitment to Islam, her adoption of the hijab, and her rejection of American materialism is her own “jihad or struggle.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in one of the most permissive, liberal societies in Europe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch Parliament and an atheist who was born into a conservative Muslim family became a target of a more violent form of jihad. Ali and Theo van Gogh collaborated upon a film critical of Islam’s treatment of women. Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist.

In London, Amanpour speaks with Ed Husain, a young Muslim who now describes himself as having been radicalized as a youth to accept an extremist Islamist ideology – seeking to return peace to the world through a restoration of a governing caliphate.

In the third and final instalment, “God’s Christian Warriors, Amanpour interviews evangelicals confronting public school curricula, morality in entertainment and public life, reproductive health and marriage issues.

“People have experienced extreme disappointment with secular culture, and so there has developed this counter-cultural protest, said Karen Armstrong, religious historian and author of “The Battle for God.

In the late 1970s, a modern religious involvement in American politics began largely in response to the US Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion, Roe v. Wade. Dr. Jerry Falwell, a preacher, founded an overtly political faith movement, the “Moral Majority, and Liberty University, an institution with aims to place its graduates in influential political positions. By the 1980 national election, the group had played a leadership role in the defeat of 12 incumbent US senators – largely on moral grounds.

“Whoever speaks out most gets to shape the culture, says Ron Luce to a stadium crowd of thousands at the 2007 Battlecry event aimed at creating a young generation of conservative Christians to “battle secular “virtue terrorists.

Quieter warriors are waging change on more personal terms. Disturbed by what they perceive as the lack of God in public schools, Jennifer and Michael Nevarr teach their children at home, allowing them to teach their children their values, which can impact everything from evolution to maths.

The “God’s Warriors series includes interviews with former President Jimmy Carter, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Noa Rothman and Kamal El-Said Habib, a reformed Islamic jihadist who was part of the violent militant group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

“There are millions of people around the world who feel that their faith is being ignored – pushed aside – and they are certain they know how to make the world right, Amanpour says. “We cannot and should not ignore them. And, with this report, we’ve tried to explain them.

Christiane Amanpour has reported on crises from many of the world’s hotspots and war zones and has interviewed several world leaders. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the coveted Paul White Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association, two George Foster Peabody Awards, a Courage in Journalism Award and a number of Emmys and duPont awards. She is a member of the board of directors for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

God’s Jewish Warriors will be aired on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 4 pm and 10 pm, Cairo Local Time (CLT). God’s Muslim Warriors will be aired on Thursday Aug. 23 at 4 pm and 10 pm CLT. God’s Christian Warriors will be aired on Friday Aug. 24 at 4 pm and 10 pm CLT.

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