Franklin Graham needs to apologize to Islamic leaders for his repeated misstatements of fact.
His criticism of Islam fertilizes the fields of hostility among conservative Christians toward Muslims. His unnecessary attacks choke the efforts of thoughtful Christians to foster an ethos of meaningful interfaith dialogue.
In an effort to promote his new book, Graham has charged Islamic clerics with silence about the Sept. 11 attacks and called the Qur’an a book of violence.
Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham and the heir of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told Beliefnet.com, “I believe the Qur’an teaches violence. It doesn’t teach peace, it teaches violence.”
“There has been silence from the Muslim clerics. There has not been denouncing of what happened here in New York City at the World Trade Center,” Graham said, repeating charges he made earlier in Washington D.C., Minneapolis and Charlotte.
Graham said, “There has not been condemnation by the clerics.”
Following the interview with Graham, which appeared on Monday, Beliefnet carried a series of statements from Islamic leaders and organizations which had responded with condemnation to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
For example, the grand imam of al-Alzhar University of Cairo, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, said, “The killing of men, women and children is a horrible and brutal action, which cannot be approved by the monotheist religions nor by sane men.”
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a renowned Muslim scholar, denounced the attacks and urged Muslims to donate blood to the victims. He said, “Islam, the religion of tolerance, holds the human soul in high esteem, and considers the attack against innocent human beings a grave sin.”
Syria’s senior Islamic leader said, “It’s not courage in any way to kill an innocent person, or to kill thousands of people.”
In a joint statement, a number of American-Islamic groups said, “American Muslims utterly condemn what are vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.”
Beliefnet’s compilation of quotations discloses that Islamic leaders have criticized the terrorist attacks, contrary to Graham’s claims.
At the very worst, Graham bears false witness against Islamic leaders. At the very best, he reveals a blind ignorance. Either way, his leadership of one of the most trusted organizations within evangelical Christianity should be questioned. He lacks discernment, and appears to be backpedaling from a constructive interfaith perspective into the cultural castle of Christian fundamentalism.
When asked how he differed from his father, Graham told Beliefnet, “I’m probably a little quicker to say what I think. It’s always good to think before you speak.”
Graham would do well to follow his own advice.
Robert Parham is BCE’s executive director.