Tomorrow, May 6th, National Day of Prayer events will take place at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. This year’s events are receiving media attention because of the Pentagon’s decision to rescind their invitation to Franklin Graham, the son of Evangelist Billy Graham. According to Col. Thomas Collins, this decision stemmed from Graham’s controversial statements on Islam that include calling it an “evil and wicked religion” and saying that “[true] Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do in these other countries.” Collins said, “We’re an all-inclusive military. We honor all faiths…Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths.”
I heard about this story after receiving an email from the Council on Islamic American Relations about the Army’s decision. CAIR was among several groups that protested Graham’s participation in the event. Despite the fact that it was the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that began the protest, media reports and Graham himself are implying that Muslims are primarily behind the Army’s decision.
What I find most interesting about this story is not that he was disinvited, but the reactions of some who even see this as an attack on Christianity. Graham has gone even further to suggest that President Obama is “Giving Islam a Pass.” With all the negative attention that Islam and Muslims usually receive in the media, I was surprised that this was the response.
First, as I mentioned, Muslims were not the originators of the protest nor are they the only ones who have a problem with Graham. Second, even if Muslims were the source of the protest, why is it acceptable for a speaker to make such negative stereotypes about a major world faith? If a Muslim were to make comparable statements about Christianity or Judaism, not only would they be disinvited but there would likely be more serious criticism. Third, and this is the most frustrating part, when speaking about this issue, Graham repeatedly makes sweeping statements about Islam that show incredible lack of knowledge of the faith and its followers.
So, I don’t think Islam is getting a pass. I would not advocate for any speaker–Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or any religion–to be invited if they have made the kinds of statements that Graham has. It is one thing to think your faith is the right path, but its another thing altogether to assume that it allows you to disparage another faith. Characterizing a whole faith by the actions of the few is simply wrong.
What do you think about the Army’s decision? Do you think that Islam is getting a pass? Do you think there would be the same response if it was an imam who had made comparable statements? Please share your thoughts.