An evangelical pastor who thinks Islam is “evil” is set to deliver prayers on Friday at the inauguration ceremony for a president-elect who thinks “Islam hates us.”
Rev. Franklin Graham is among six faith leaders chosen by Donald Trump to offer their prayers, benedictions or other statements during Trump’s swearing-in on Jan. 20.
Graham is president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He is also one of America’s more prolific anti-Muslim bigots, and his inclusion in Friday’s ceremony has saddened, but not necessarily surprised, American Muslim groups.
“[Trump] ran a campaign riddled with Islamophobia, so it’s no surprise that the person he brings in at inauguration is the pastor with the longest track record of anti-Islam bigotry in the U.S.” said Imraan Siddiqi, executive director at the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
“Extremist voices like Graham are given legitimacy by highlighting him on a national platform, therefore his inclusion on this docket seems to be an endorsement of his highly offensive views,” Siddiqi said.
‘A Religion Of War’
A month after the 9/11 terror attacks, Graham, speaking at the dedication of a new chapel, told an audience that Islam “is a very evil and wicked religion.”
Pressed to clarify his comments by NBC, Graham said, “It wasn’t Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn’t Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith.”
In 2014, when asked by Christian Today if his views on Islam had changed since those 2001 remarks, Graham said “I have not changed my opinion at all.”
He added that when he looked at terror groups like the Islamic State, the Taliban and Boko Haram, he thought: “This is Islam. It has not been hijacked by radicals. This is the faith, this is the religion. It is what it is. It speaks for itself.”
Islam, he added, hasn’t changed in 1,500 years. “It is the same,” he said. “It is a religion of war.”
During a 2009 CNN interview, Graham said that “true Islam cannot be practiced in this country,” and went on to suggest that Islam sanctions horrific crimes.
“You can’t beat your wife,” he said. “You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries.”
In 2014, Graham wrote a Facebook post decrying the National Cathedral in Washington for allowing the first-ever Muslim prayer service in the church.
“It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins,” Graham wrote.
In a 2015 interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, a paranoid Graham warned that the White House had been “infiltrated by Muslims,” although he couldn’t name who these Muslims were. In a Facebook post a couple days later, Graham nevertheless said these Muslims were “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic—and they are influencing the president who as we all know was raised with a strong Muslim influence in his life.”
This Muslim influence, Graham said in a later interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, would somehow lead to the “persecution” of Christians.
“We’re going to see persecution, I believe, in this country because our president is very sympathetic to Islam and the reason I say that ... is because his father was a Muslim, gave him a Muslim name, Barack Hussein Obama.”
Also in 2015, Graham proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. ― months before Trump made the same shocking proposal.
“We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad,” Graham wrote in a Facebook post. “We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized―and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.”
“During World War II, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans,” he continued. “Why are we allowing Muslims now?”
Later that year, when asked on CNN if he thought Islam is compatible with American values, Graham said, “I don’t think so.”
‘The Fact Is, We’re Scared’
In 2010, the U.S. Army disinvited Graham from a National Prayer Day event at the Pentagon due to his anti-Muslim remarks. Nihad Awad, national executive director at CAIR, said this week that Trump should do the same and dump Graham from the inauguration lineup.
It’s not Islam that’s incompatible with American values, Awad argued, it’s the views of extremists like Graham.
“Rev. Graham’s ill-informed and extremist views are incompatible with the Constitution and with American values of religious liberty and inclusion,” he said in a statement.
Neither Trump nor Graham responded to a request for comment on this story.
Graham ― who spoke at George W. Bush’s first inauguration ― told Fox News earlier this month that “God’s hand” played a part in Trump’s election victory.
God’s involvement notwithstanding, Nazir Harb Michel, who studies Islamophobia as a senior research fellow at Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative, told The Huffington Post that Graham’s involvement “confirms that Trump sees America as at war with Islam itself and with all Muslims,” and that “he does not distinguish between ordinary Muslims and terrorists who claim to be Muslims.”
Trump, in fact, said “I think Islam hates us” during a CNN interview in March.
There is also evidence Trump would support designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group, a move experts say is a ruse to destroy important American Muslim organizations like CAIR.
“The fact is, we are scared,” Michel said. “We don’t know what to expect but it already has gotten worse.”
Lana Safah, spokeswoman at the Muslim American Society, called Graham an “extremist, Islamophobic pastor whose rhetoric encourages hate and divisiveness.”
That he’s participating in the inauguration, she said, is “very much on par with the path the Trump administration has taken so far: selection of individuals who are a threat to the civil liberties and in many cases, the very safety of minorities in general and Muslims in particular.”
Since his election victory, Trump has selected anti-Muslim extremists for influential positions in the White House. For example he named retired Lt. General Michael Flynn ― who has likened Islam to a “cancer,” once tweeted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” and who believes in the unhinged conspiracy theory that Shariah law is taking over the country ― as national security adviser.
“[Trump] wants to create a new mode of governance where islamophobia is an acceptable norm,” said Hatem Bazian, the director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at University of California Berkeley.
Graham’s involvement this Friday is “just one more piece in constructing an Islamophobic edifice in this administration,” he said.
Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Trump selecting Graham proves the president-elect wasn’t serious when he promised to be a “president for all Americans.”
“We would hope that if President-elect Trump was serious about reflecting the values of our nation and healing the divide that we are currently facing, that he would bring in voices that are bridge builders and not dividers,” Ahmed said. “There are many amazing leaders in the Christian community who work to do that - why not give them a greater platform?”
“There are many, many evangelicals in the United States who do not see their own ability to live out their faith as being in conflict with the rights of American Muslims to do so as well,” said Catherine Orsborn, campaign director for Shoulder to Shoulder, an interfaith organization dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment.
“Unfortunately, Rev. Graham does not seem to share a vision of an America with room for the many faiths that comprise it,” she said.
Hazem Bata, secretary general at the Islamic Society of North America, told HuffPost that “there are so many more pastors that I’m sure have a much more inclusive view of other faiths.”
Bata also said Graham could use a “modest history lesson that Islam and Muslims are not people of war.” The largest conflicts in recent history, he said, pointing to wars from World War I through Vietnam, were not Muslim conflicts.
Bata added that it’d be great to have an imam pray at the inauguration ― something no president in history has done, according to a report in Time.
“I think Muslims are part of the fabric of American society,” he said. “And an America without Muslims has never existed. The greater public needs to start seeing Muslims as part and parcel.”
Even if the inauguration is “just ceremonial,” he said, it’s “significant in the public psyche.”
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