Pentagon Muslims Angered by Rev. Graham Invitation
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON (Reuters - 15 April) - Muslims at the Pentagon are incensed by what they
say is an insensitive invitation to evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, who
has called Islam an "evil religion," to preach on Good Friday at the
In letters to the Pentagon chaplain's office this week, Muslim office
workers complained strongly about Graham's plans to lead prayers on
Friday, one of the most religious days in the Christian calendar.
The letters urged officials to find a "more inclusive and honorable"
religious leader to take his place.
A spokesman for Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham and head of a
Minneapolis-based evangelist association in his father's name, confirmed
on Tuesday he would attend Friday's service, where prayers were likely to
focus on U.S. military action in Iraq -- a largely Muslim country.
"As far as Friday is concerned, the Reverend Graham will be attending
prayers at the Pentagon," said spokesman Jeremy Blume, adding Graham was
in board meetings on Tuesday and was unlikely to comment personally on
The Pentagon was not immediately available to comment on the complaints,
but a spokeswoman told The Washington Post that Christian employees had
requested Graham as a guest preacher and the chaplain's office would not
rescind the invitation.
"If a Jewish group wants to invite a particular speaker, they'll do that.
Muslims hold services here too. The Army chaplains are absolutely
nonjudgmental of any faith that soldiers want to follow," said Army
spokeswoman Martha Rudd in Tuesday's Post.
IRAQ RELIEF PLANS ALSO CRITICIZED
Graham angered Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when he called
Islam a "very evil and wicked religion."
He has also ignited controversy over plans for his relief organization,
Samaritan's Purse, to go into Iraq to deliver aid, a move the Arab
community says is aimed at trying to convert followers of Islam rather
than helping Iraqis in need.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on
American-Islamic Relations, said inviting Graham to the Pentagon prayer
service "sends entirely the wrong message to the Muslim and Arab world
that the Pentagon will host someone who has such Islamophobic views."
He added: "This kind of incident can undo any kind of bridges built by a
hundred public affairs officers at the Pentagon. They need to think how
their actions are perceived not only in this country but worldwide."
Hooper said the plan by Samaritan's Purse to go into Iraq in the wake of
an invading American army was wrong and would strengthen the belief the
U.S. attack on Iraq was an attack on Islam.
"I believe his group is one of a number of evangelical missionary groups
that use the cover of humanitarian relief to prosper in coercive ways,"
Graham's spokesman declined to answer questions about the Iraqi relief
mission, citing instead an opinion column Graham wrote recently for the
Los Angeles Times.
"In Iraq, as is the case wherever we work, Samaritan's Purse will offer
physical assistance to those who need it, with no strings attached,"
"We don't have to preach in order to be a Christian relief organization.
Sometimes the best preaching we can do is simply being there with a cup
of cold water, exhibiting Christ's spirit of serving others."