Muslims in Lower Manhattan, American Evangelicals in Iraq

Does a Christian undertone to the Iraq War transform discussion about Islam in America?

Outside a community center before a Cordoba House meeting. (Getty)

Something to consider as the Cordoba House Islamic Center continues to get attacked by cowardly pundits and politicians from both parties is the increasing abundance of American Christian missionaries in Iraq.

As U.S. combat forces ready their withdrawal from Iraq, conservative estimates are that between 97,000 and 106,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the conflict. Those numbers clash greatly with data that say more than 1 million civilians have lost their lives, but one thing is for sure: America's war in Iraq has killed at least 3,500 percent more people than the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet despite the fact that tens of thousands of innocents have been taken by a disastrous American-led conflict, a growing number of American Evangelicals continue setting up shop mere feet from the graves.

Where do the Cordoba House opponents stand on this religious intrusion?

Before we answer that question, let's look at what I presume will be the main argument of those who would call what I just said ridiculous: "America isn't fighting a Christian war, whereas Sept. 11 happened in the name of Islam."

First, to say the 9/11 attacks speak to the inclinations of all Muslims is like saying the Westboro Baptists, who protest at dead American soldiers' funerals with signs saying "God Hates Fags," speak to the inclinations of all Christians. Al-Qaida is a fringe, extremist group within Islam, one that, statistically speaking, kills far more "traitorous" Muslims than it does Westerners. Sept. 11 wasn't a Muslim attack, it was an al-Qaida attack, and to conflate the two shows a lack of real knowledge about the people with whom we're at war.

Second, and what's more complex, is the issue of whether America's attack on Iraq was a Christian one. Nominally, of course, the answer is no. But in actuality, there are a few Holy War red flags we'd be remiss if we glossed over.

Each cover page features inspiring color photographs -- soldiers praying, a young man preparing for battle, Saddam's statue falling. With them are biblical quotes, some related to providing strength to the soldiers but some about the godliness of the cause.

Next to a picture of an American tank is the quote: "Open the gates that the righteous nations may enter, The nation that keeps faith. Isaiah 26.2"

A photo of two soldiers in prayer is accompanied by the quote, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us. Here I am Lord, send me! Isaiah 6:8"

In a GQ story about the proselytizing briefings, reporter Robert Draper wrote, "At least one Muslim analyst in the [Pentagon] building had been greatly offended [by the verses]."