What’s the difference between Koran-burning Terry Jones in Gainesville and Franklin Graham in his North Carolina Boone? Jones is a firefly fanatic, his lasting value about equal to a larval life form. He’s already forgotten. Graham has his father’s name. His father’s congregations. His father’s reputation. He’s soiling and shredding all three fast. But immensity of Billy Graham’s breadth, admirable in so many respects, takes time to demolish. Especially when you still get invited to national television shows and treated with the deference your father commanded.
There is no difference between Terry Jones and Franklin Graham, except this: Graham is more dangerous. He’s the fanatic in respectability’s guise. He’s the fool with a following. That following gives him the legitimacy of the Sunday chat shows (though Louis Farrakhan’s following is proportionately larger in the United States, but you don’t see him allowed to wince it up on the Sunday chat shows).
Graham and Graham’s types must be heard: you don’t let a guy with a following like that do his bit in the shadows. It’s necessary, even vital, to know fanaticism intimately in order to demolish it. Hear him. But don’t let him get away with it, unless you’re his willing accomplice.
Graham was at it again today (Oct. 3, two days after this year’s National Diversity Day), speaking tripe to Amanpour on ABC’s This Week. First, a little context.
“Islam is a very evil and wicked religion,” Graham told an NBC interviewer in 2001, while B-52s were beginning their withering of what was left of Afghanistan from 30,000 feet up. Islam, he said. Not al-Qaeda. Not terrorists. Not the Taliban’s fanatics. Islam. The fell swoop of a billion and a half souls. It doesn’t get less unqualified than that, or more idiotic. Unless you’re Franklin Graham.
Last Dec. 9 on Campbell Brown’s CNN show: “We have many Muslims that live in this country, but 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 practice in these other countries.”
So he was at it again today, in an Amanpour segment featuring some of the brightest and dimmest bulbs on the subject. Amanpour launched the discussion with the simple question: “Should Americans fear Islam?”
Graham: “Understand what the Muslims want to do in America. They want to build as many mosques, cultural centers as they possibly can so they can convert as many Americans as they can to Islam, and I understand that. I understand what they’re doing.” Of course he does: that’s not any different than his evangelizing mission. “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.”
So Graham is first, resentful, second, he’s suggesting that America’s standard should be the same as Saudi Arabia’s: Since Saudi Arabia is discriminatory and bigoted toward non-Muslims, let America be bigoted and discriminatory against Muslims in return. Wonderful. That’s the true spirit of America. Imagine if the Founders had taken that approach in the 18th century.
It gets worse. “But let me say something about Islam,” Graham continued. “I love the Muslim people. But I have great difficulty with the religion, especially with sharia law and what it does for women, toward women, toward non-believers, the violence that is given under sharia law.”
Amanpour was on to the bullshit. She’s no dummy. She’s lived under sharia law. She turned to an imam in the audience and asked him. Is it allowed under sharia law? First, he corrected the record: There are 53 Muslim countries. Only one, Saudi Arabia, bans the building of churches, and even that is on its way out (the Vatican is negotiating a deal). But the falsehood endures. The wife-beating thing was all over the place, and Graham returned to it.
Wife-beating of course is no more a specialty of Muslim cultures than it is of American or Floridian ones: we don’t have shelters for abused women for nothing. They may stone women in some countries. But so do we: we happen to use bullets.
There’s no question that so-called “honor killings” of women and girls over sexual issues are indistinguishable from the worst atrocities imaginable. But let’s put that in perspective. So is murder. And when it comes to murder–of cheating spouses included–the murder rate in the United States makes even that of Saudi Arabia’s “honor” kills look insignificant. Aside from Turkey, America’s murder rate is well ahead of that of any Middle Eastern country. So is Europe’s. Let’s not quibble over idiotic terms like “honor killings,” either: every other gang-related murder is an “honor killing,” and domestic murders, what the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics calls “intimate homicides,” while on the decline (for men more than for women), still account for more than 1,500 killings a year in this peace-loving country. Three times as many women are killed by their boyfriends or husbands or fathers than the reverse.
Franklin Graham won’t tell you that.
The Iranian Azar Nafisi, author of the fascinating Reading Lolita in Tehran, who did not lose anyone in 9/11 but lost a lifetime, family, friends and students in Iran, where she was a professor (including students of hers murdered by the Iranian regime), had a more searching answer to Amanpour’s question: “I came here to America because I expected that that image, which those people had imposed on us would not be imposed on us again. And look at my surprise. From both sides of the isle. What you hear is that there is one Islam. If we think that there is only one Islam, then we have to take sides. Either it’s evil, or it’s good. But there are as many interpretations of Islam as there are Muslims.”
“You know we can have an argument, and I’m not here to argue,” Graham said. Actually, that’s precisely what he was invited on the show to do: to argue his position against challenges. The “I’m-not-here-to-argue” ploy is a defense against challenge. So he reverted to the rhetorically untouchable, at least from his point of view. He abandoned rational debate in favor of pulpit mission statements, the faith-based approach to clobbering debate—a Taliban specialty, incidentally. End of discussion: “As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ is the way to the truth and the light, and that no man comes to the father in heaven except through him. I don’t believe in Islam. I don’t believe a word of it. I do respect their right to believe whatever they want to believe. My opinions are not based on hearsay. My opinions are based on 50 years of working in Middle Eastern countries.” Then it was back to his wholesale condemnations: “They do stone women. They do imprison…”
Reza Aslan, author of two excellent books on Islam, interrupted him, with justified impatience: “Who is they? I mean, Azar Nafisi said something very important. There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It is unquestionably the most diverse, the most eclectic religion in the history of the world. This concept of just using the word they to describe one and a half billion people is actually the definition of bigotry.” That drew a round of applause.
Graham’s they, let’s not forget, is in his genes. It’s one of the less admirable inheritances from his father, whose they did so much to demonize communism in order to help a succession of presidents build up our national security state–the same state Franklin is now helping the Pentagon keep in place, and bulk up some more.
At least Amanpour’s program featured an excellent mix of perspectives that did what this sort of debate should do: there is no such thing as “two sides to every story.” That’s ridiculous (and convenient) manichaeism that paints the world as either black or white, denying its plurality, which is ironic in a country like the United States, which supposedly prizes pluralism above all else (it’s our national motto: E pluribus unum). There are innumerable sides to every story.
And no: there is no one way to the father in heaven, Frank. There is not even a single father. Or mother. There is a pluralism of creation as much as there is of creators, and of faithful believers and non-believers. The source of evil, when there is evil, is in the denial of that plurality in the name of higher powers. It’s what Islam’s worst practitioners do. It’s what Franklin Graham is doing.
There are evil elements in any religion. Christianity among them. It is those evil Christian elements we should be worried about in the United States. They are far more potent, far more prevalent, than anything two-bit Muslim radicals from cragged corners of the world could ever mount against the United States. We have our own dangerous, cragged fanatics. Franklin Graham is among them.
Jim Guines says
This is a most powerful and thought provoking article.
PC MAN says
Franklin’s dad Billy Graham was caught on tape with Pres Nixon discussing how Jews controlled the media and such. I guess the nut didn’t fall far from the nut tree. As an Atheist I wish all religions would fade away.
I found this article to be skirting the line between straight news and editorializing. Pierre, I wish you had bylined this.
Is there any place to see the second half of the show?
Roy Ostapko says
Not much support for that article and those views of Publisher Pierre Tristam, thus the Silent Majority does speak.
Pierre Tristam says
emile, you’re right, but it is by-lined (the signature is at the foot of the piece), and marked as an “editor’s blog” post as well. Part two should be up there now.
Roy, if you mean to say that the silent majority agrees with Franklin Graham–doubtful, but whatever–I guess it underscores why certain “majorities” thrive where the sun don’t shine. They’re all yours.
I think it is funnny how some people can explain anything away, We don’t stone people we use bullets, we beat women that is why we have shelters for them. In all the cases, none of the, “we have they have” make it right. I don’t know that I agree with Graham or Pierre since they BOTH have an ax to grind and are two peas in a pod, however they do have the right to express their feelings and I am not sure they could do that in some of the Islam controlled countries.
Rock Hartley says
History teaches us that Muhammad was not in the beginning. Buddha was not in the beginning. Hindu’s were not in the beginning. Oprah was not in the beginning. But God Was and Is and Is to come. John 1: 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 14The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His Glory, the Glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. .Thank You! JESUS CHRIST! Hallelujah!
Roy Ostapko says
Pierre, the Silent Majority tries mot to communicate as you do. I was not referring to the minister’s words, but yours.
But let’s talk religion, next post.
Roy Ostapko says
So Let’s talk religion.
Yah Shua (Jesus), our Lord & Messiah (the Anointed One of our Father in Heaven) is the only way to be forgiven our sinful ways, to have Eternal Life in the future.
Tell me, how are the Muslims to be forgiven, seems they need the Messiah, the Son of Elohim (God the Almighty)
Remember, you are the one who brought the Christian faith to this forum.
Ken Dodge says
“Islam is a very evil and wicked religion,” Graham told an NBC interviewer in 2001, while B-52s were beginning their withering of what was left of Afghanistan from 30,000 feet up. Islam, he said. Not al-Qaeda. Not terrorists. Not the Taliban’s fanatics. Islam.
Would that George W. Bush had made that distinction in his post 9/11 speeches to Congress and the Nation (and, by extension, the rest of the world). Instead, he wimped out and declared war on terrorism (shades of LBJ’s war on Poverty).
No equivalence between Judeo-Christianity and Islam, a political ideology wrapped in a religion.
NOT OUT OF THE WOODS says
It’s a good thing that there are three sides to every story….my side…your side and then there is the truth!
@Roy: Go proselytize somewhere else. I hear the Westboro Baptist Church will be picketing a fallen soldiers funeral, a venue for your ilk to gain exposure and recruit more crazies to your cause. *sarcasm*
Leo Sigh says
I’m more afraid of the right-wing Christian nuts than I am of any Muslims (and I know hundreds of Muslims as I live next door to a Muslim country which I visit many times a year).
Nice job on your online newspaper by the way. It’s very well written!
“I’m more afraid of the right-wing Christian nuts than I am of any Muslims (and I know hundreds of Muslims as I live next door to a Muslim country.”
Yea right, try painting a portrait of Muhammad and then one of Jesus in an Islamic area in England and then do that in the worst place in the world that you can think of occupied by Christians and then make your jack-ass comment again as to which one your afraid of. You won;t get to finishing either picture because you’ll have your body beaten, stabbed, stoned on the spot. Typical Christaphobe, liberal comment.
No wonder our politicians are getting away with their criminal conduct without fear of retribution or being held accountable because they know there are legions of idiots that they can rely on that will vote for them.
The man spoke plainly about the followers of Islam as does Geert Wilders and many, many others relying on facts to support their claims. If the facts didn’t point out that daily around the worlds people live in FEAR of being killed by its followers for simply making a cartoon about Muhammed then I could understand. Go speak to Salman Rushdie or Gert Wilders who live around the clock under security because they will be killed for speaking against the ills of Islam and its followers. Research the issue of the dutch writer stabbed through the chest by another peace-loving Muslim for his cartoon which got him killed.
Even here in the US where at this time a young lady from Washington State ( I think) has been forced to live a new life under protective services due to threats on their life for mearly trying to take a stand against Islam and its fanatics by attempting the notorious “Draw Muhammed Day.” Attempting to do it put a price on her head and our government and fools alike do nothing and say nothing more about it. Worse yet, they go after Christians. Cowards wimps, and losers to all those who do such.
There is something unique and troubling by the way govenments are appeasing these Muslims and centers known for radical Islamic activities and allowing the hate and violence they preach in plain view of the world. It is easy to see there is something calculated going to people with common sense. Islam IS A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM and is gaining it’s first toehold in the US through the construction of the “victory” mosque, a place that is and will forever be admired Muslims around the globe as the beginning point of Islam’s parallel society and government in America.
David Rosser Owen says
Roy Ostapko wrote above, “Yah Shua (Jesus), our Lord & Messiah (the Anointed One of our Father in Heaven) is the only way to be forgiven our sinful ways, to have Eternal Life in the future.
Tell me, how are the Muslims to be forgiven, seems they need the Messiah, the Son of Elohim (God the Almighty)”.
Perhaps he doesn’t know that Muslims accept Jesus as Messiah as a necessary part of their faith, and that one cannot be a Muslim without believing that that is what he is? And perhaps he doesn’t realise that Elohim is the Hebrew cognate of Allah? And that, as Christ spoke Aramaic, his name wasn’t Yashua, which is Hebrew, but Yesa?
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong says
Great article! Islam gets some seriously bad press these days, so it’s always refreshing to see more balanced articles. The truth is, as Reza Aslan put’s so eloquently, “There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It is unquestionably the most diverse, the most eclectic religion in the history of the world. This concept of just using the word they to describe one and a half billion people is actually the definition of bigotry.”
While there are bad Muslims and criminals, most are not so different to those that exist in any community. Islam is not a cult, so there are good and bad people in our religious communities, as with any other major religion. While if one refers to Islamist movements, it’s true there are some seriously evil people involved, these only make up a very small minority of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world; most Muslims opposing such fanatical political and religious movements, which are in fact antithetical to traditional Islam.
Problems such as domestic violence do exist in all communities. Blaming a religion for the domestic problems found everywhere, must surely be the height of absurdity! Regarding what Islam’s position is, the best reference is of course it’s holy book, the Qur’an. The following is what it has to say on the matter: