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Christian Allies of Bush Attack Islam
Wed Nov 28 16:37:02 2001 GMT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush has told Americans that Islam's teachings are "good and peaceful" but some of his close allies in the Christian evangelical movement beg to differ.
While many U.S. politicians have followed Bush in preaching tolerance and understanding with Muslims, some leading Christian evangelists have quietly been telling their own followers that Islam is inherently evil.
The most prominent to step forward was the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, who gave the benediction at Bush's presidential inauguration last January.
In comments last month, Graham, who is about to take over leadership of his father's vast ministry, referred to the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on New York and Washington which killed some 3,900 people as inspired by Islam.
"We're not attacking Islam but Islam attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God," he said. "He is 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."
In his autobiography, Bush credited the senior Graham with inspiring him to return to Christianity and get his life back on track after years of drifting and excessive drinking. The Graham and Bush families have been close for many years.
When Franklin Graham was asked to clarify his views, he refused to back away from them. He told MSNBC, "I don't believe this (Islam) is this wonderful, peaceful religion."
Bush himself, who received powerful political and financial backing during his presidential campaign from evangelical Christians, has been at pains to reach out to Muslims and convince the world that his war against Osama bin Laden is not a war on Islam.
He visited an Islamic school, invited Muslim leaders to the White House and recently hosted a traditional Ramadan fast-breaking meal for ambassadors from Islamic nations.
In his speech before Congress a week after the Sept. 11 attack, Bush said, "The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam."
"Islam's teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself," Bush said.
BUSH ADVISER AGAINST ISLAM
But Marvin Olasky, a personal friend and former campaign adviser to Bush who is credited with inspiring his slogan of "compassionate conservatism" recently wrote that a religion can be evil while still bringing comfort to those who follow it.
"Anyone who believes in Christ should be willing to say that Islam is wrong in its conception of who God is. But Islam becomes theologically evil when its leaders do not give those they control the liberty to explore for themselves the truth about God," he wrote in World, a Christian magazine.
Chuck Colson, who heads a Christian ministry for prisoners that has influenced Bush, also recently spoke out against Islam as a religion of tolerance in columns and radio spots widely syndicated in the Christian conservative community.
"Belligerence toward people of other faiths and cultures is, arguably, inherent to Islam. In contrast, while Christians have mistreated non-Christians, a fair examination of Christian history and doctrine shows this conduct is in violation of Christian beliefs, not in their furtherance," he said.
Gene Edward Veith, a humanities professor at Concordia University, a Baptist institution in Wisconsin, recently argued that whereas Christianity was concerned with saving souls, Islam was concerned with imposing Koranic law on willing or unwilling people.
"As those who work with international college students know, Islamic students who come to the United States often have big behavioral problems. Having been brought up in a society that tries to make bad behavior impossible with Taliban-like restrictions, when they find themselves in a society without those external restraints, they often go wild, indulging in all kinds of debauchery," he said.
One Christian evangelist, Anis Shorrosh, found himself in a confrontation with Muslim students in September when he appeared at Houston Baptist University and told them that their God was the devil and they would all go to hell.
Some leading Christian evangelists look at the events of Sept. 11 as an opportunity to reach out to Muslims and try to convert them.
The Christian Broadcasting Network headed by former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson, recently urged Christians to pray throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan for the spread of the Gospel in the Muslim world.
Despite the Christian evangelists' efforts, in recent years Muslims have had more success in converting American Christians, especially blacks, than vice versa.
Among the 2 million Americans held in prisons and jails, some 30,000 convert to Islam each year.
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