An American Internet evangelist entered a fray over a UK teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad with a YouTube video featuring a stuffed pig named for the Muslim prophet.
Titled “Muhammed, the Muslim Pig who converted to Christianity,” the video features voice over by Bill Keller, host of LivePrayer.com, a Web site that claims a mailing list of 2.4 million e-mail subscribers to a daily prayer e-mail.
“Hi, my name’s Muhammed,” the audio says. A name label taped on the pig spells the name ending with the letters “ed.” The most common English spelling of the founder of Islam is Muhammad with an “a.” It isn’t clear if the misspelling is intentional, but using a toy pig is designed to make a point, because Islam forbids the eating of pork.
“I was born a Muslim, read and studied the Quran, followed the teachings of Islam,” the script continues. “And then one day I was surfing the Internet. I came across a Web site, LivePrayer.com. I began reading some devotionals by a Bill Keller.”
“And I was reading his articles on Islam, how he called it a false religion, how he called the Prophet Muhammad a murdering pedophile,” Muhammed says. “And I began to study a little more intently. And indeed Muhammad was a man of murder. He was a pedophile, having a wife at the age of 6. And I came to find out that the Quran really is nothing more than a book of fairy tales. I began to really study the Bible and then one day I realized that I was a sinner, and I accepted Jesus as my savior and the Bible as the only truth there is. I would like to invite you to take the opportunity to know Jesus as your savior. He died for your sins, so that you could escape the horrors of hell and enjoy life everlasting with God, not Allah, the God of the Bible. I’m Muhammed, and I’d like to invite you today to know Jesus as your savior. God bless you.”
The video parodied a weeklong ordeal involving Gillian Gibbons, a British school teacher arrested Nov. 25 in Khartoum after parents complained about her allowing her 6- and 7-year-old pupils at a private English school to name a teddy bear Muhammad.
The British embassy said Gibbons never meant to offend anyone, but she was sentenced Nov. 29 to 15 days in jail and deportation for insulting religion and inciting hatred. Bloomberg reported Monday afternoon that Gibbons had been released to British diplomatic officials and had left Sudan on a flight back to the UK.
Gibbons became an instant cause celebre for the Religious Right in America. WorldNetDaily carried stories about Islamic extremists accusing the teacher of missionary activity and claiming she should be stoned. She could have faced 40 lashes in Sudan but was spared that sentence. On Monday she was pardoned by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
It was a natural issue for Keller, an in-your-face apologist for fundamentalist Christianity who has been criticized in the past for attacks on Muslims, Mormons and homosexuals.
Raised in a United Methodist home, Keller, 49, originally aspired to attend seminary and become a pastor. He dropped out of college, however, to go into business. During a two-and-a-half year sentence in federal prison for insider stock trading, he rededicated his life to Christ and earned an undergraduate degree in biblical studies from Liberty University.
Keller entered full-time evangelism in Illinois in 1993, and branched out into broadcasting two years later. In 1999 the Internet site LivePrayer.com was launched, followed by a “Live Prayer Television Program” on secular stations in 2003.
Ordained to the ministry through an independent charismatic group called Spiritual Life Concepts in Largo, Fla., Keller made news not long ago when he wrote in one of his daily e-mail dispatches to subscribers, “If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!”
Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the IRS should revoke Keller’s tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates.
Keller responded that Lynn should sic the IRS on his own church, the United Church of Christ, for having Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speak to its general synod.
Such brass has won Keller media admiration, even from unlikely sources. Secular outlets have endowed him with titles like the “Dr. Phil of Prayer” and Next Big Thing in mass-media religion. Religious media giving him favorable coverage include Liberty University News and Charisma Magazine.
Keller has guest hosted for radio shock jock Howard Stern, once using the platform to challenge Rosie O’Donnell to an on-air debate to defend her “anti-Christian hate speech.” Keller derided Oprah Winfrey as a “New Age witch.”
One Keller video challenged presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, to “quit lying” by trying convince people that Mormons are Christians.
The Tampa Bay area’s third-largest newspaper, Creative Loafing, dubbed him “Best Jesus Freak Gone Over the Edge,” a title Keller embraced as a badge of honor. While intended as a slam, Keller said in a statement, the award really signified “that people are paying attention, they are noticing and they are hearing the message.”
“My whole goal is to reach outside the four walls of the church and reach the lost and hurting masses that will never go to church, never read the Bible and are simply looking for answers and hope in their life,” he said.
In August a CBS television station in Tampa dropped Keller’s late-night program after the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations complained about its content. That was after a May 2 program on which he called Islam a “1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell” and the prophet Muhammad a “murdering pedophile.” A competing station picked up his show.
Recently Keller sent a video challenging Osama bin Laden to convert to Christianity.
“Osama, since you seem to be a fan of video messages, I thought this would be the best way to communicate with you,” Keller said in a message reportedly posted to video sites in the Middle East.
“Look at you, look at your life,” Keller said. “You live like a hunted goat in caves, totally dependent on a small group of people for your survival. At any moment, one of those you trust could betray you like Judas betrayed Jesus and your life would be over. The false prophet you follow, Muhammad, was poisoned to death by one of his wives.”
“You followed the same path as the false prophet you have put your faith in–Muhammad–who, like you, was once a businessman, but who history has recorded was nothing more than a murdering pedophile who led men’s souls to eternal damnation with the false religion he created,” he continued. “Islam is a 1,400-year-old lie that was born out of the voice of Satan–literally.”
“Muhammad was correct when he stated it was Satan who initially spoke to him,” he said. “He dreamed up his own god, Allah, a poor imitation of the God of the Bible, and inspired his own holy book, the Quran, a cheap imitation of the inspired, inerrant Word of God found in the Bible.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.