Evangelist upsets Muslims

Sarasota Herald Tribune, Feb. 4, 2003

PORT CHARLOTTE — An evangelist told a church congregation here Sunday that the holy book of Islam instructs followers to kill nonbelievers.

Moody Adams upset some area Muslims and left them feeling misunderstood after the all-day conference on terrorism at First Baptist Church.

Speaking to an estimated 1,600 people during four sessions, which included the church’s two regular Sunday services, the 71-year-old Adams drew a picture of Islam in stark contrast to the peace-loving image that the local Muslim community has encouraged since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I believe in being nice to the (Muslim) people,” said Adams, reached Monday at his Baton Rouge, La., home. “I hate this book (the Koran). I believe it is a barbaric book. I believe it is the cause of these little children killing themselves, the Palestinians.”

Adams, also an author, has published a “Koran with commentary” that identifies commands that he believes encourage the killing of nonbelievers, or “infidels.” He cites other passages that promise eternal bliss for martyrs.

On Monday he quoted the following passage from the Koran: “When you encounter the infidels, strike off their heads until you have made a great slaughter and the rest make fast with fetters.”

He said, however, that many American Muslims are peace-loving, and either don’t understand what the Koran is really about or choose not to follow it.

Perhaps 20 Muslims, as well as members of the local Peace Coalition, listened to Adams’ lecture Sunday. The coalition has opposed the push for war against Iraq.

Hasan Hammami, a Muslim from Port Charlotte, referred to the event as Islam-bashing day.

“It doesn’t take much fear-mongering like this to whip people up into a frenzy,” Hammami said Monday. “I don’t feel safer. I feel less safe than I felt the day before yesterday.”

First Baptist didn’t invite the Muslim community to the series of services, but they were open to the public.

Pastor James Kibelbek said he scheduled Adams as a speaker several months ago. Adams, who said he gives about 300 lectures a year, has spoken in the county on several other occasions about different topics.

Kibelbek said he didn’t know the specifics of Adams’ talk beforehand, but doesn’t regret having invited the guest lecturer.

“According to what we read in the Koran, there’s a lot of hate against Jews, a lot of hate against Christians.”

Kathy Lyden, a Port Charlotte Muslim, said Adams and others take passages from the Koran out of their proper historical and social context.

She said the word “infidels” does not refer to Christians and Jews.

“It’s referring to the Arab pagans that were persecuting the Muslims,” she said.

Lyden said she was moved to tears at the conference.

“This is the same kind of stuff that sets people up for persecution,” she said.

The Islamic Community of Southwest Florida was a victim of vandalism after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Vandals set fire to a roadside planter at the center on Harborview Road in Port Charlotte and stole an American flag.

After the attacks and the vandalism, the center’s members invited non-Muslims to Ramadan feasts, spoke at churches and participated in interfaith groups.

Kevin Massey, a minister at First Baptist, said Adams’ message was directed more toward Islam on an international level, and not at local Muslims. He said he can separate the people from the religious text.

But Jan O’Rourke, a peace activist who attended the conference, didn’t see it that way.

“You just can’t pick up their holy book and call it the word of Satan,” she said.

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