Christian countries respect freedom of worship.
Most Muslim ones don't.
By Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham
Opinion Journal (from The Wall Street Journal editorial page), Dec. 9, 2001
Some of my recent statements, interpreted as critical of Islam, have been widely reported. I believe I've been greatly misunderstood, and I'd like to paint a more complete picture.
And so while I respect the rights of all people to adopt their own beliefs, I would respectfully disagree with any religion that teaches people to put their faith in other gods. As a Christian minister, my calling is to proclaim the God of the Christian faith, whose son Jesus Christ died for the sins of all mankind.
But Jesus also taught his followers to love others. It is this central teaching of Christianity that motivates my life and work, as a relief worker as well as a minister. While as Christians we disagree with Islamic teachings, if we obey the teachings of Jesus we will love all Muslims.
My concern is evidenced by the thousands of Muslims to whom our relief organization provides food, clothing, housing, supplies and medical care every day in many countries. In fact, in recent years we have provided more relief to Muslim people than to any other group in the world--support valued at tens of millions of dollars in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq.
I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. I personally have many Muslim friends. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith--including Christianity. I agree with President Bush that as a country we are at war with terrorists, not with Islam. But as a minister, not a politician, I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching.
The brutal, dehumanizing treatment of women by the Taliban has been well-documented and internationally condemned. However, the abusive treatment of women in most Islamic countries is nearly as draconian and falls far short of the dignity, respect, and protection almost universally given to women and mandated by the United Nations.
The persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of Islamic conquests and rule for centuries. The Koran provides ample evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world. Conversions from Islam to any other faith are often punishable by death.
One example is the treatment of non-Muslims by the Islamic government of Sudan. In the past year, our hospital in southern Sudan was bombed seven times by the Islamic regime in Khartoum. These bombings pale in comparison with the two million Christians and animists killed, and thousands more enslaved, by the regime in recent years.
In most countries where Islamic law dominates there is practically no freedom of religion (not to mention freedom of speech or the press). In most Islamic countries, including so-called moderate Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, it is a crime to build a Christian church, Jewish synagogue, Hindu temple or any other non-Muslim house of worship. In contrast, there are about 3,000 mosques in the U.S., with new ones being built every week.
Muslims are free to worship Allah in the U.S., but Christians are not free to worship Jesus in most Muslim countries. There has not been a single church in Afghanistan since the exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, destroyed the first and only one in the history of the country in 1973.
As we come to the end of the year, the world's three major monotheistic religions will celebrate their holy seasons--Ramadan, Christmas and Hanukkah. It is an important time for people of faith to have the courage and the right to express their deeply held beliefs. In this nation we are grateful for the ability to worship God and to practice the religions of our choice without interference from our government. I pray that it might be so throughout the world.
[Mr. Graham is president of the international relief organization
Samaritan's PurseOff-site Link and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic
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