Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse
by Sheila Musaji
In our article collection of distressing anti-Muslim comments made by Christians, Franklin Graham’s entry has become lengthy enough to require an entry of his own to add to our Who’s Who of Islamophobes. He joins Pat Robertson, and a few other “Christian” clergy who are engaged in a modern day Crusade against Islam and Muslims.
In 2002, Azizah al-Hibri wrote on TAM
Recently, Reverend Franklin Graham frankly expressed his views on Islam on Fox and PBS. He said that Islam was an evil and violent religion, and that the Qur’an itself calls for violence against non-Muslims. He also asserted his belief that the God of Islam is not the God of Christianity because the Muslim God is neither a Father nor a Son.
Except for his statement about Islam’s rejection of the Trinitarian Doctrine of Christianity, Reverend Graham is wrong about Islam. Yet even in this case, his statement is significantly incomplete; for, it is important to add that Muslims do recognize Jesus and honor him as a major Prophet. The Qur’an describes him as the Word of God delivered to Mary (3:45; 4:171).
Reverend Graham states that the Qur’an encourages Muslims to kill non-Muslims (1).“You can read it for yourself,” he says, “and these verses from the Qur’an are not taken out of context, it’s there.”(2) The emphasis on the verses being “there” does not of course validate the Reverend’s claim. It also invites similar treatment of verses in the Bible. But “proof-texting,” or the lifting of a verse from a text to make one’s point has been roundly criticized by Christian and other religious scholars as well as academicians. It is distortive and subject to manipulation. Reverend Graham would not want this to happen to his sacred text, let alone have his faith publicly condemned based on such a suspect approach.
Further, as the revealed Word of God, a Being who is All-Knowing, Muslims believe that the Qur’an is internally consistent. Yet Reverend Graham’s interpretation of a verse in the Qur’an provides a meaning which is inconsistent with both other verses in the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet. In particular, the Qur’an declares that:
“Those who believe in the Qur’an, and those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians, Any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62)
Statistics show that American Muslims tend to be a family oriented, hard-working, and highly educated group. In other words, they are productive and upstanding members of this society. Yet, recently some of their co-citizens have been inclined to treat them as guilty by religious association. This behavior strikes at the heart of our American constitutional liberties.
Let us not allow those who visited upon us the horrors of September 11th when they demolished the Twin Towers and parts of the Pentagon, break our spirit by alienating us from our time-tested American values and first principles. It was inexcusable even in the 17th century to have someone like Humphrey Prideaux speak disrespectfully of the Prophet; it is even less excusable that Americans today who have lived all their lives with our constitutional liberties condemn the religious beliefs of their co-citizens in similarly offensive terms. One would expect that by now our constitutional values and religious history would have become sufficiently entrenched in our psyche and society as to protect us from the tyranny of the majority and the folly of religious oppression.
Who better than the Baptists can understand this history? The travails of John Waller are well documented. The role of John Leland and other Baptists in securing the First Amendment is part of our history. Today, we ask Baptists in this country to support us in our travails and be good neighbors to us, for they have suffered religious persecution themselves. And whatever we may be, we are all God’s children. Why fight over God when there is enough of him to go around?
The fear of future terrorist attacks resides in all of us. Our government tells us that another attack is certainly on the way. Our community has been on the alert about it, because in the end we will pay for any attack a double price as primary and secondary victims. So, Reverend Graham, please do not make life more difficult for us. It is neither Christian nor American.
Perhaps Jefferson’s words can provide some comfort in this area: “Let us not be uneasy then about the different roads we may pursue, as believing them the shortest, to that our last abode: but following the guidance of good conscience let us be happy in the hope that, by these different paths, we shall all meet in the end.” (Letter to Miles King, 1814)
After all, Reverend Graham, both your God and our God, whether different or the same, believe in forgiveness. Who are we to close the doors of heaven and earth to those different from us? We pray for you and forgive you, and ask God to help you open your heart to us.
In 2003, Mas’ood Cajee reported on Graham and his Samaritan’s Purse “charity”
Like the despised Carpetbaggers of yore, Graham plans to exploit the humanitarian crisis for his own calculating gain, by subjecting vulnerable Iraqis to his Faustian Christ-for-food program.
Graham, who has called Islam “a wicked religion”, views the US military and its wars in the Muslim world as the perfect vehicles for missionary work in the difficult “10/40 Window”. The 10/40 Window is evangelical Christian-speak for the rectangle with boundaries of latitudes 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator; encompassing most of the Muslim World.
Graham and his Samaritan’s Purse organization have a record of exploiting wars and preying on victims for their own missionary ends. They rode with IDF convoys into Lebanon during Israel’s 1982 invasion to reach Palestinian refugees, preached pretentiously to Kurds fleeing Saddam’s forces in 1991 and sheltered and proselytized young Bosnian Muslim girls who had been raped by Orthodox Christian Serbs.
A thought that struck Graham in the Spring of 1991 shortly before the Kurds were betrayed by America and slaughtered in droves by Saddam’s military is telling: “What a time to preach the gospel to these people! America is number one with them right now. They’re eager to listen to anything we have to say!”
Graham and his group have repeatedly used the heightened vulnerability that war brings to target those in uniform, POWs, refugees, and civilians with physical assistance and “spiritual ammunition”.
“I think we need to do all we can to use [the US military] presence,” Graham urged his followers during the 1990 Operation Desert Shield , ” to share with the people of that region the faith that our nation was built on.”
During the Persian Gulf military build-up in 1990 and ensuing war in 1991, Graham made creative use of “embedded” fundamentalist Christian sympathizers in the chaplain corps, officer corps, and rank and file.
Under the Cover of Operation Dear Abby, in which the advice columnist urged Americans to write letters of encouragement to anonymous soldiers, Graham’s followers mailed over 200,000 Arabic-language Christian tracts to US troops based in Saudi Arabia.
“Let them know you are praying that God will protect them,” Graham instructed participants in his grassroots letter-writing campaign to send Christian tracts to Saudi Arabia. “Subtly drop the hint that while they are in Saudi Arabia, they may have an opportunity to share it with someone.”
In December 1990, Graham followed with a bolder campaign. His Samaritan’s Purse organization helped send over 30,000 holiday gift packages to men and women in uniform that included a New Testament in Arabic.
Graham was later “touched most deeply” by a letter from an A-10 Thunderbolt “Tank-killer” pilot. “Just two weeks earlier I had been trying to kill those guys,” the pilot told Graham. “Then I found myself in an army hospital talking with an Iraqi POW. I gave him the Arabic New Testament.”
Graham’s activities had attracted the attention of the Saudis and US General Norman Schwartzkopf, who ordered a military chaplain to confiscate all of Graham’s Bibles and tracts and return them. Disturbingly, the chaplain later confided in Graham that he and others largely ignored 3Stormin1 Norman2 Schwartzkopf’s orders. Instead, the Saudi-based chaplain brazenly requested Graham send more Arabic-language Bibles because he had befriended a “believer who has organized a distribution system for the tracts and the New Testaments.”
The Guardian further reported on Operation Christmas Child
SPI’s website features links to a Samaritan’s Purse newsletter from Graham, in which he states that God has blessed Operation Christmas Child “because it is about more than Christmas presents”. He says: “It is about introducing children and their families to God’s greatest gift - His Son, Jesus Christ. As long as evangelism is the focus, God will continue to bless it.”
The newsletter says the boxes are distributed along with evangelical literature and that the boxes “have led to salvation for tens of thousands of children and their families”. It cites examples such as in Zambia, where “one shoebox prepared the way for nearly two dozen people to come to faith in Jesus Christ”.
Follow-up materials “give children further opportunities to accept Christ and grow in their faith”. Hundreds of thousands of children in developing countries are said to have participated in a 10-lesson Bible-study course run by the charity.
Michelle Cottle reports on another of Graham’s “charity projects”
... of greatest relevance to the recent debate, however, was Graham’s clash with General Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf war. As part of a project termed “Operation Desert Save,” Graham arranged for the shipment of tens of thousands of Arabic-language New Testaments to the troops in Saudi Arabia to be passed along to the locals. The project was in direct violation of Saudi law and flew in the face of an understanding between the U.S. and Saudi governments to eschew proselytizing. As Graham later recalled to Newsday, Schwarzkopf had a chaplain from his office phone the reverend to complain about the diplomatic difficulties he was causing. Graham’s response: “Sir, I understand that, and I appreciate that, but I’m also under orders, and that’s from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Schwarzkopf went on to publicly slap Graham and Samaritan’s Purse in a section of his 1993 autobiography—a scolding the reverend proudly points to as a symbol of his willingness to fight the good fight, no matter how unpopular.
In 2010, Rev. Graham was disinvited from the Pentagon National Day of Prayer event. Here is the press release from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - Albuquerque-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) this week strongly criticized the Pentagon for inviting Franklin Graham to speak at the National Day of Prayer Task Force Event scheduled for May 6, 2010. The MRFF charged that Graham has a long history of making inflammatory statements that indicate a universal prejudice against the entirety of Islam and the totality of its Muslim followers, calling the entire religious faith “false”,“evil,”, “wicked” and “violent” and it demanded that the Pentagon remove Graham from the National Day of Prayer Task Force program. “It would be just like bringing someone in for the National Day of Prayer that made terribly hateful and bigoted references to all of Christianity or Judaism and all of its faith followers,” said Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, President and Founder of MRFF.
Today, the Pentagon announced that, after MRFF threat of legal action, on behalf of the Pentagon’s Islamic community, it would remove Graham from the National Day of Prayer program. Franklin Graham released the following statement:
“I regret that the Army felt it was necessary to rescind their invitation to the National Day of Prayer Task Force to participate in the Pentagon’s special prayer service. I want to express my strong support for the United States military and all our troops. I will continue to pray that God will give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country.”
Here are a few of Franklin Graham’s positions and statements:
— Rev. Franklin Graham said terrorism is part of “mainstream” Islam and claimed the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, “preaches violence.” On Fox News cable network’s “Hannity & Colmes” program, Graham, after repeatedly refusing to deny that Islam is “evil,” said: “I think it’s [terrorism] more mainstream. And it’s not just a handful of extremists. If you buy the Koran, read it for yourself, and it’s in there. The violence that it preaches is there.” Earlier in the day, Graham appeared on Hannity’s nationally-syndicated radio program where he made similar remarks and claimed that Muslim leaders have failed to condemn terrorism. 2002
— Rev. Franklin Graham said Islam teaches its followers to ”persecute” others until they convert, with the aim being ”total domination.” 2006
— Rev. Franklin Graham There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism.” 2006
— Rev. Franklin Graham - on Nightline “If people think Islam is such a wonderful religion, then go to Saudi Arabia and make it your home,” Graham said. “Just live there. If you think Islam is such a wonderful religion, go and live under the Taliban somewhere.” 2006
— Graham told Campbell Brown that “Islam is evil”. 2009
— Rev. Franklin Graham falsely stated that “I understand what the Muslims want to do in America,” said Graham, president of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “They want to build as many mosques and cultural centers as they possibly can so they can convert as many Americans as they can to Islam. I understand that…I understand what they’re doing. And I just don’t have the freedom to do this in most Muslim countries. We can’t have a church. We’re not able to build synagogues. It’s forbidden.” 2010
— Graham said “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name.”
— Rev. Franklin Graham claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated “every level of our government” and has a big influence on Obama administration decisions. 2011 He said “The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active in our country. It’s infiltrated every level of our government. Right now we have many of these people that are advising the US military and State Department on how to respond in the Middle East, and it’s like asking a fox, like a farmer asking a fox, “How do I protect my henhouse from foxes?” We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. And many of these people we’ve brought in, I’m afraid, are under the Muslim Brotherhood.”
After Being Disinvited By The Pentagon, Anti-Muslim Evangelist Graham Now Slated For Congressional Event, Zaid Jilani http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2010/04/28/94088/frankling-graham-congress-speak/
Air Force Academy Backs Away from Operation Christmas Child Charity, Todd Starnes http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/air-force-academy-backs-away-from-christmas-charity.html
Army disinvites Graham to Pentagon Prayer Day http://www.aolnews.com/story/army-disinvites-graham-to-pentagon/993216?cid=9
Bible Brigade: Franklin Graham v. Iraq, Michelle Cottle http://www.tnr.com/article/bible-brigade
Dissecting Franklin Graham’s far-right crusade against Islam and Obama http://clclt.com/charlotte/dissecting-franklin-grahams-far-right-crusade-against-islam-and-obama/Content?oid=2183213
Evangelist Franklin Graham questions President Obama’s faith, Michael Gordon http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/02/22/v-print/139578/franklin-graham-questions-president.html
Federally Mandated National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/national_day_of_prayer
Franklin Graham and the Art of Misinformation, Qasim Rashid http://www.huffingtonpost.com/qasim-rashid/franklin-graham-art-of-misinformation_b_1296236.html
Franklin Graham Disinvited From Pentagon Prayer Day For Calling Islam Evil, Offensive http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/22/franklin-graham-disinvite_n_548509.html
Franklin Graham’s Christian Empire In Jesus’s Name, John Chuckman http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/04/23/in-jesus-s-name/
Franklin Graham, Spiritual Carpetbagger, Mas’ood Cajee http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/04/10/franklin-graham-spiritual-carpetbagger/
Rev. Franklin Graham: Of Condemnation and Divinity , Azizah Y. al-Hibri http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/rev_franklin_graham_of_condemnation_and_divinity
Franklin Graham says Islam is evil, Harris Zafar http://www.examiner.com/article/franklin-graham-says-islam-is-evil
Franklin Graham tells CNN’s Campbell Brown “Islam is Evil” surprise, surprise, Robert Salaam http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/franklin_graham_tells_cnns_campbell_brown_islam_is_evil_surprise_surprise
Franklin Graham’s Nascent McCarthyism http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12523
Instructive Parallels between Christian anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Paul Williams http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/instructive_parallels_between_christian_anti-semitism_and_islamophobia
Interview with Reza Aslan: Is Islam worse than any other religion? http://www.psmag.com/culture-society/is-islam-worse-than-any-other-religion-25794/
Jesus in Baghdad: Why we should keep Franklin Graham out of Iraq, Steven Waldman http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2003/04/jesus_in_baghdad.html
Keeping a bigot at arms length http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_04/023480.php
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” ( John 8:7), Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal (Graham & Robertson), Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/let_him_who_is_without_sin_cast_the_first_stone_john_87
Operation Christmas Child: Presents Imperfect http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2002/dec/18/guardiansocietysupplement7
Santorum excuses Graham’s anti-Muslim comments, calls them ‘reasonable.’, Alex Seitz-Wald http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2010/04/23/93454/santorum-graham-islam/
Top Evangelicals Critical Of Colleagues Over Anti-Islam Statements http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/08/us/top-evangelicals-critical-of-colleagues-over-islam.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We’re On a Crusade, Chris Rodda http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/press-releases/toptenways.html