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Muslim Group Seeks to Meet Billy Graham's Son

Muslim Group Seeks to Meet Billy Graham's Son

Author: Gustav Niebuhr
Publication: The New York Times
Date: November 20, 2001

A Muslim advocacy organization, the Council on America-Islamic Relations, said yesterday that it had sent a letter to the Rev. Franklin Graham, to discuss remarks that Mr. Graham, an evangelist, made describing Islam as evil.

Nihad Awad, the council's executive director, said that he wrote to ask Mr. Graham to meet with him and Muslim scholars, as a response to remarks Mr. Graham made in an October interview broadcast on Friday on NBC's "Nightly News."

Mr. Graham, the eldest son of the evangelist Billy Graham, is president of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization that provides food, clothing and medical aid to poor people overseas.

According to a transcript of the interview, Mr. Graham said Islam had attacked the United States on Sept. 11. He said that Muslims worshiped a different God than Christians and that he believed Islam to be "a very evil and wicked religion."

The remarks came amid a longer interview, devoted mainly to Mr. Graham's Christian theology. Mr. Graham has emerged as a major figure among evangelical Protestants, offering prayers at national events, including President Bush's inauguration.

His criticism of Islam stands out when many public figures have emphasized interreligious understanding, not least Mr. Bush, who has asked Americans not to blame the faith for the acts of Sept. 11.

Mr. Awad said he wanted to give Mr. Graham "a chance to know Islam first-hand."

In his letter, Mr. Awad said "negative impressions of Islam are most often based on a lack of accurate and objective information."

On Sunday, Mr. Graham sent a statement to The Charlotte Observer, in which he said his group was providing "more relief and aid to Muslim people" than to anyone else. He also said his calling was as a Christian minister, proclaiming God, not analyzing other faiths.

But he said, too, that he had expressed concerns about "the teachings of Islam regarding the treatment of women and the killing of non- Muslims, or `infidels.' "

A spokeswoman said yesterday that Mr. Graham would not comment further.

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