A Muslim-rights group designated by the Justice Department as a terrorist co-conspirator celebrated its role in the cancellation of evangelist Franklin Graham’s appearance at a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon.
Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, said his invitation to be honorary chairman at the May 6 Pentagon service was revoked after Muslim members of the military complained about his description of Islam after the 2001 terrorist attacks as “a very evil and wicked religion.”
Graham explained his 2001 remarks in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, saying he didn’t believe Muslims were evil because of their faith but, as a minister, he thought it was his “responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching.”
Army Col. Tom Collins said the invitation to Graham was from the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force, not the Pentagon. The Pentagon chaplain’s office, he said, coordinates the event with the private group. The Army said the event will go forward without the participation of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad said his organization – an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history – hailed the decision “as a victory for common sense and good judgment.”
“Promoting one’s own religious beliefs is something to be defended and encouraged, but other faiths should not be attacked or misrepresented in the process,” Awad said.
CAIR had called on its supporters to petition the Pentagon to rescind the invitation to Graham.
CAIR – newly confirmed by the Justice Department as a terrorist co-conspirator – is trying to keep its lawsuit alive against two investigators behind the expose “Muslim Mafia”, which documents the D.C.-based group’s founding and current activity as a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood and its spinoff Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization.
Army spokesman Gary Tallman told Fox News Graham’s “presence at the event may be taken by some as inappropriate for a government agency.”
But critics of CAIR accused the Army of succumbing to political correctness and ignoring the Muslim organization’s radical affiliations.
“No matter what the circumstances, the Army has no business bowing to the will of a group that has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case, and has had several of its officials convicted of jihad terror-related charges,” Robert Spencer commented on his Jihad Watch blog.
Graham said in a statement he regretted the Army’s decision but expressed “strong support” for the U.S. military. He refused to revise his past comments.
He told Fox News yesterday he loves Muslim people and wants them to know God loves them and they can be saved through Jesus Christ.
“I want them to know that they don’t have to die in a car bomb, don’t have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God. But it’s through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone,” Graham said.
Graham called Islam’s restrictions on women “horrid.”
“I love the people of Islam but their religion, I do not agree with their religion at all,” he told Fox News. “And if you look at what the religion does just to women, women alone, it is just horrid. And so yes, I speak out for women. I speak out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam and I want them to know that they can be free.”
Commenting on Graham’s remarks to Fox News, Spencer accused the Army of “abetting the whitewashing and coverup of the institutionalized mistreatment of women in Islamic law.”
“This could have been, as Obama might say, a ‘teaching moment,’ and an opportunity to stand up for the human rights of those women and other groups oppressed by Shariah. Instead, it is just an occasion for more dhimmitude,” he said, referring to the subordination of non-Muslims under Islamic law.
‘Islam has attacked us’
Graham’s 2001 remarks were made at the dedication of a chapel in North Carolina.
“We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God,” he said at the event. “He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the decision to revoke Graham’s invitation was “further evidence that the leadership of our nation’s military has been impaired by the politically correct culture being advanced by this administration.”
“Under this administration’s watch we are seeing the First Amendment, designed to protect the religious exercise of Americans, retooled into a sword to sever America’s ties with orthodox Christianity,” Perkins said.
Perkins himself was disinvited to speak at a prayer luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base earlier this year because of his opposition to President Obama’s call to allow homosexuals to serve in the military.
“For those Christian leaders who have avoided the controversy of political issues, saying they just wanted to preach the gospel – this should be a wake-up call,” he said.
Perkins called Graham “a man of courage and integrity whose deeply held biblical convictions should not be a pretext for denying him the opportunity to share the Gospel.”
“His ministry, Samaritan’s Purse, has fed literally millions of men, women and children in Muslim countries. The fact that he has theological differences with Islam, differences wholly in keeping with the teachings of the New Testament, and that he has expressed them publicly, is now being used by anti-Christian zealots in a manner offensive to the freedom of religion guaranteed by the very Constitution military leaders are sworn to uphold.”
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, said the “attack on Franklin Graham and Christians was engineered by CAIR and it has the fingerprints of Barack Obama’s White House all over it.”
She said Awad and CAIR “offer us a preview of what America will be like if they are ever successful.”
“Playing by their rules – Shariah law – there is no separation of church and state,” Lafferty said. “There is one state religion, and Islam is it. There is zero tolerance for anything at variance with Islam, particularly if it’s Christian or Jewish.”
Lafferty pointed out that FBI wiretaps introduced at the federal Holy Land Foundation trials in 2008 showed Awad participated in a secret meeting of Hamas leaders and activists in Philadelphia in 1993.
At that time Awad was director of the Islamic Association for Palestine (a Hamas front group according to the FBI), which founded CAIR.
A 1993 Muslim Brotherhood document listed Awad’s name among “important phone numbers” for the Palestine section of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. The Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, founded after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, is the parent of Hamas, al-Qaida and most of the major Islamic terrorist organizations.
‘At war’ with evangelicals
The nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation also put pressure on the Army to disinvite Graham, outlining its objections in a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The group’s president, Mikey Weinstein, said the invitation offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon, because Graham never retracted or apologized for his description of Islam as evil.
Weinstein, whose group has filed numerous unsuccessful suits against military personnel who openly declare their faith, claimed the invitation would endanger American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists.
The Pray In Jesus Name Project, led by former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, said Weinstein “duped” Pentagon officials into disinviting Graham.
Klingenschmitt cited Weinstein’s declaration, “We are at war with a subset of evangelical Christianity. How many? Roughly 12.6 percent of the American public or 38 million people. It’s still a lot of people.”
Klingenschmitt’s group has posted a petition to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urging Pentagon officials to reinvite Graham.
“Never did Franklin Graham threaten profanity-laced violence or declare war against 38 million Americans because of their faith, like Mr. Weinstein has,” said Klingenschmitt.
Meanwhile, the chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, Shirley Dobson, issued a statement calling on Americans to defend the right to pray at the Pentagon.
“Enough is enough,” said Dobson, the wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
Noting national days of prayer have occurred since 1775, “when the Continental Congress asked the nation to join in a petition for divine guidance,” she urged President Obama to appeal a ruling by a federal judge in Wisconsin last week that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
Judge Barbara Crabb wrote in her opinion that the law, which gives the president the authority to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer, violates the First Amendment.
“It goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion,” Crabb wrote, “because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”
The National Day of Prayer will continue while the case is under appeal.