BY FRANKLIN GRAHAM
Journal--Sunday, December 9, 2001 12:01 a.m. EST
Some of my recent statements, interpreted as critical of Islam, have
been widely reported. I believe I've been greatly misunderstood, and I'd
like to paint a more complete picture.
I should start by saying that I am an evangelist and chief executive of
two large Christian organizations. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I
believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. I believe in Jesus'
statement: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to
the Father except through me." Christians accept this as the only way
And so while I respect the rights of all people to adopt their own
beliefs, I would respectfully disagree with any religion that teaches
people to put their faith in other gods. As a Christian minister, my
calling is to proclaim the God of the Christian faith, whose son Jesus
Christ died for the sins of all mankind.
But Jesus also taught his followers to love others. It is this central
teaching of Christianity that motivates my life and work, as a relief
worker as well as a minister. While as Christians we disagree with Islamic
teachings, if we obey the teachings of Jesus we will love all Muslims.
My concern is evidenced by the thousands of Muslims to whom our relief
organization provides food, clothing, housing, supplies and medical care
every day in many countries. In fact, in recent years we have provided
more relief to Muslim people than to any other group in the world--support
valued at tens of millions of dollars in places like Bosnia, Kosovo,
Sudan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq.
I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. I
personally have many Muslim friends. But I decry the evil that has been
done in the name of Islam, or any other faith--including Christianity. I
agree with President Bush that as a country we are at war with terrorists,
not with Islam. But as a minister, not a politician, I believe it is my
responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed
as a result of Islamic teaching.
The brutal, dehumanizing treatment of women by the Taliban has been
well-documented and internationally condemned. However, the abusive
treatment of women in most Islamic countries is nearly as draconian and
falls far short of the dignity, respect, and protection almost universally
given to women and mandated by the United Nations.
The persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of
Islamic conquests and rule for centuries. The Koran provides ample
evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to
reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world. Conversions from Islam to any
other faith are often punishable by death.
One example is the treatment of non-Muslims by the Islamic government
of Sudan. In the past year, our hospital in southern Sudan was bombed
seven times by the Islamic regime in Khartoum. These bombings pale in
comparison with the two million Christians and animists killed, and
thousands more enslaved, by the regime in recent years.
In most countries where Islamic law dominates there is practically no
freedom of religion (not to mention freedom of speech or the press). In
most Islamic countries, including so-called moderate Islamic states such
as Saudi Arabia, it is a crime to build a Christian church, Jewish
synagogue, Hindu temple or any other non-Muslim house of worship. In
contrast, there are about 3,000 mosques in the U.S., with new ones being
built every week.
Muslims are free to worship Allah in the U.S., but Christians are not
free to worship Jesus in most Muslim countries. There has not been a
single church in Afghanistan since the exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah,
destroyed the first and only one in the history of the country in 1973.
As we come to the end of the year, the world's three major monotheistic
religions will celebrate their holy seasons--Ramadan, Christmas and
Hanukkah. It is an important time for people of faith to have the courage
and the right to express their deeply held beliefs. In this nation we are
grateful for the ability to worship God and to practice the religions of
our choice without interference from our government. I pray that it might
be so throughout the world.
Mr. Graham is president of the international relief organization
Samaritan's Purse and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.