Evangelicals condemn derogatory remarks about Islam
In an unusual public rebuke, leading evangelicals in the US have condemned derogatory statements about Islam by their more Conservative counterparts, and pledged to improve relations with Muslims.
The Evangelicals who met on Wednesday said the derisive comments by the Rev. Franklin Graham and others endangered Christian missionaries in the Muslim world, and strained already tense interfaith relations.
They also said that it fed the perception in the Middle East and beyond that the war on terrorism was a Christian crusade against Islam reports the Associated Press.
Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, and who runs the charity Samaritan's Purse, declared after the 11 September attacks that Islam was "a very evil and wicked religion". Rev. Jerry Vines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, also called the Prophet Mohammed "a demon-possessed paedophile."
"We must temper our speech," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 43,000 congregations.
Franklin Graham infuriated Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of Operation Desert Storm during the 1991 Gulf War, by shipping tens of thousands of Arabic-language New Testaments to Saudi Arabia in defiance of Saudi law and the US-Saudi military alliance. In San Diego on Wednesday for a mission led by his father, the evangelist Billy Graham, he could not immediately be reached to comment, said his spokesman.
Hodan Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is among Graham's harshest critics, said she was encouraged by Wednesday's meeting attended by 50 representatives of evangelical churches, schools and mission groups.
"We can understand theological differences, but what's important is that the dialogue is one of respect, not demonisation," Hassan said.
At one point in the meeting, Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank, asked if anyone wanted to defend the comments made by Graham and others. Although no one did, participants also avoided personally criticizing the religious leaders.
To repair the damage to relations, the evangelical group and the Institute on Religion and Democracy are drafting guidelines to begin dialogue with Islamic leaders.