Martha Sawyer Allen
Star Tribune, Aug. 10, 2002
The Rev. Franklin Graham, heir to the legacy and chief executive officer of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), is not mincing words. He is telling Americans that Islam is a religion of intolerance and violence.
“Where are the clerics?” he asked Thursday in an interview while on a business trip to Minneapolis. “Why haven’t Muslim clerics from around the world gathered at ground zero, held hands together and prayed to Allah for forgiveness and told the American people this is not Islam? Because they believe it was right. This is a just cause — their jihad.”
Graham was in Minneapolis to meet with BGEA employees about the organization’s move to Charlotte, N.C. But he also wanted to talk about his new book, “The Name,” released Tuesday.
His remarks and the book have drawn heated response from the Islamic community.
“Mainstream political leaders and religious figures must speak out against the growing demonization of Islam by extremist right-wing commentators and by representatives of the evangelical Christian community,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.
Hooper said that every major Islamic group in America quickly condemned the Sept. 11 attacks.
Graham said Thursday that he makes no distinction between the faith of Islam and the policies and practices of countries run by Islamic law.
“My goal is not to fight Muslims, but look at the cases,” Graham said. “There is no tolerance under Islam. I’ve been to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia. Muslims in this country haven’t traveled [to Muslim countries] as much as I have. I know.”
Franklin became CEO of BGEA in November 2000. While he and his father share the same bedrock Christian faith, Franklin Graham emphasized that he was speaking for himself, not for his father or the BGEA.
This is not the first time Franklin has publicly condemned Islam. Last fall, he called Islam evil, and decried the conditions in countries ruled by Islamic law.
Islam was only one subject the younger Graham tackled in the book and during Thursday’s interview. He also asserted that:
• The fact that many Americans want to eradicate any reference to Jesus Christ or Christianity from public discussions is proof to him that evil exists in the world. He says that the strength of the opposition is proof to him of the power of the Christian message.
• The world will never lessen the AIDS crisis without Christian teachings of abstinence and tolerance.
• Americans have misread American constitutional mandates of the separation of church and state to mean the exclusion of anything Christian. “In these times it has almost become a requirement for the sophisticated and intelligent to take a swipe at the nearest Christian.”
When reminded that throughout history, the Christian church has promoted violence and hatred, particularly toward Jews, he said, “Nowhere in the Bible does it tell you to kill Jews, or fight Jews. [The Inquisition] was evil, wicked men who in the name of Jesus Christ tried to carry out their own evil, wicked desires, but there was no instruction from the Bible whatsoever for this.”
On the church-state issue, he said, “There is an element within our society that has dedicated their lives to the destruction of the name of Jesus Christ. They do this under the guise of church and state. Our forefathers never wanted us to eliminate religion. They were Christians who came. They weren’t Buddhists, Hindus, Jews or Muslims. They were looking for freedom to worship God, and they ensured religious freedom for everyone who followed them.”
Graham said it has become so ingrained in the culture to denigrate Christianity that people no longer notice. “Why is it,” he asked, “that when people curse, they use the name of Jesus? When you mention Mohammed in a room everyone says that’s nice, but when you mention Jesus it polarizes a room. You can feel the electricity. Jesus has been at the center of the vortex of the storm for 2,000 years.”
He called AIDS a “hot button issue with me. Christians have come late to this.” However, he says that the world’s solution to the health crisis is to teach people about safe sex and condoms. “They want to solve this thing so they can continue to live an immoral life style,” he said.
“God gave us sex, but he gave us parameters all around us. When we use sex outside the parameters God gave us, we’re at risk. Sex kills.” The parameters, he said, are a man and woman in marriage. Nothing else. “The world doesn’t want God’s standards.”