IOWA VIEW - Graham hasty in slamming Islam faith

Monday, December 3, 2001

"Just being the son of Billy Graham won't get me into heaven."

Those truthful and touching words of Franklin Graham in 1996 illustrate his commitment to do God's work, following in the heavenly footsteps of his father, Billy Graham. Franklin conducted his first evangelistic event in 1989 and committed to spend 10

percent of his time each year preaching. Each year, he conducts an average of seven festivals around the world as an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Since 1989, he has preached to more than two

million people in cities from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Tupelo, Mississippi. However, in spite of Graham's far-reaching accomplishments, he has recently managed to offend over 1 billion people, including myself.

In an NBC broadcast on November 16, Graham had this to say about the Islamic religion: "I don't believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim."

Asked by NBC News to clarify his statement, Graham stood his ground. "It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn't Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."

When I first read such repulsive remarks, I wasn't sure if Graham was joking. I kept telling myself, "He can't be serious. There's no way a Christian minister could be so ignorant and spout off such unfounded statements."

I was wrong. He was serious.

Graham's remarks have more holes than an O.J. Simpson alibi (for any of his "alleged" crimes), and it would be impossible to adequately refute all of his misunderstandings in a limited space; however, I will do my best.

Graham is quite liberal in his use of the word "infidels," considering the fact that in the Koran, the word is not mentioned once. In the verses of the Koran, it speaks of "pagans" and "polytheists," but not infidels; there is quite a difference between their definitions.

In regards to killing, according to the Koran, it is possible to kill in self-defense; furthermore, there is to be no killing of non-combatants and no destruction of property. Because Islam draws heavily from both Judaism and Christianity, it allots special tolerance for people of those religions in that it protects their lives and properties, and allows them to practice their religions. The Koran is explicit in its protection for "People of the Book."

Graham is correct in stating that it was, in fact, an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith. Yet, Graham forgets to mention that the terrorists who attacked our country believe in a perverse distortion of the true teachings of Islam, usually grouped into an all-encompassing term - Islamic fundamentalism. What is especially confusing is that Graham said it wasn't "Methodists" or "Lutherans" who were flying planes into buildings, it was Muslims. Graham has no problem separating Christians into different denominations, but he throws every Muslim into the same violent dugout. He makes no mention of the fact that Islam is not a monolithic religion, similar to Christianity. Graham is attempting to discredit every Muslim in the world because the terrorists were Muslims, too. They have to be the same, don't they? According to Graham, apparently. In reality, not at all.

Divisions in Islam are normally drawn between the Shi'ite and Sunni interpretations of the Koran, but even further within those separate beliefs are still numerous divisions. Yes they are all, in a way, of the Islamic faith. But no, they are not all the same. It's like saying a Catholic and a Protestant believe in the exact same interpretations of the Bible; it doesn't work that way.

Why does Graham belittle a religion he doesn't understand? Maybe it's because he's embarrassed of his own religion's blunders. In the bloody Crusades, the Christians indiscriminately killed tens of thousands of Jews and Christians, and even more Muslims once they reached their destination in and around Jerusalem. It's odd that when Muslims took Jerusalem in 638 a.d., they allowed the Christians and Jews to practice their religions. But when the Christians pillaged the city in 1099, Jews were locked in synagogues and burned to death, while the bodies of dead Muslims were actually eaten by Christian knights. Christians outdid

themselves as fanatical killers of hundreds of thousands of heretics during the Crusades, but what's the point in mentioning that? Doesn't really fit in with your argument too well, huh, Frank? And what about the fanatical Christians who bomb abortion clinics and kill

abortion doctors in the US? Or what about the IRA?

Whenever they bomb something there isn't a headline referring to "Christian fundamentalism." We couldn't have that, could we, Frank? Wouldn't it be terrible if the world judged our entire religion on the acts of fanatical sects?

Arguably, the most disturbing realization is that our country, and Christianity, looks up to people of Franklin Graham's stature. But should we? Better yet, how can we? If Graham can be so ill-informed about the basic tenets of Islam, what does that say about his credibility?

Maybe Graham should spend a little more time reading his Bible than spouting his mouth off. Or if he does decide to speak again about Islam, maybe he'll read all of the Koran...

I hope the Muslim world doesn't make a similar mistake and haphazardly group me into Graham's fanatical sect of Christianity; I don't want to be there.

Kenny Kolander is a former Pilot-Tribune intern, now studying at Simpson College.