Friday, December 11, 2009

Islam and Franklin Graham

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Exhale.

First off, I have to say that I have the utmost respect for Billy Graham, I perceive him to be a Christian leader who was uncompromising in his love and faith for Christ. Not only that but, despite being in the public eye, he maintained an unwavering stance of love and integrity.

As for his successor, his son Franklin, I have been mildly bemused as he takes on a post-911 stance on the US, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Islam. Today that bemusement turns to amazement at his ignorance. I hate to be so harsh but in all honesty that is the only thing I can attribute his recent statements to - ignorance.

This recent interview with CNN's Campbell Brown, in the first 4 minutes pointedly pushes him to define his stance on Islam as a religion and he doesn't waver - "I find Islam to be a very violent religion."

Let me break down the video by his main points.

1.) When asked if the war in Afghanistan is a religious war, Franklin stated: it is for them, but not for us. They see us as a Christian nation, that we are all Christians, it is a religious war for them but, of course not for us.

So Americans are much more open I guess. We can distinguish between a religion and say, a country; we can see the diversity that they can't. Which is probably why after 9/11 Sikhs in turbans got beat up. It's probably why one of the explicit images of the war is the 'freeing' of Muslim women from the hijab. Of course Americans view Iraq or Afghanistan as a Muslim nation! Franklin himself, in a later answer referred to Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as Saudi Arabia) as representing Islam... so does that mean you see them as a Muslim nation? Let's not kid ourselves, this war has many aims and they are all mixed up - economics, religion, politics, culture, imperialism....

2.) "True Islam cannot be practiced in this country (USA)." Why? "You can't beat your wife, you can't murder your children if you think they committed adultery". Brown aptly questions him on this - "And that is true Islam for you?"

'True' Islam is beating your wife and killing your kids? This is the kind of sensationalist images that the American media has been feeding to the American public and Franklin picks it up and touts it as if it is true, he says "If you study Islam" you see this is true! This is the equivalent of saying that 'true' Christianity is assassinating abortion providers (which some do) and supporting Jewish extermination (which some did/do).

So how does Franklin prove that Islam is an "evil religion"?

3.) "When you see countries living under Shari'a law, trust me Campbell, girl, you don't want to live there." (I'll even pass up slamming his condenscending sexist language... alright, so maybe I just did that...)

Franklin points to Saudi Arabia and later Southern Sudan as examples of the killing and murder that goes on under the name of Islam. When Brown pushes him in saying, "Well not all Muslims practice to such extremes", Franklin glibly replies "Well, they all want to get out... but if you're Muslim you cannot change."

First, Sudan is probably the worst example he could have picked of "Islamic murder" for these reasons: The 2 million Christians he quoted murdered in Southern Sudan, most of them are 'Christian' only in location, in that by residing in the South the West perceives of them as Christian, when in reality most of them are "animist" or practising indigenous religions; secondly, they killing in the South, much like the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, is motivated by much more than religion. In fact it has way more to do with "divide-and-rule" tactics implemented under British colonialism, resources and economics, and how to get part of the international aid that is coming in.

Second, and more serious is the idea that countries under Shari'a law represent true religion. When religion and politics are mixed, the resulting ideologies can hardly be claimed to represent the true religion. Christianity has its own striking examples in Munster during the Reformation when Anabaptism when political and created a city where those who resisted were killed, the 'godless' were thrown out or killed, and polygamy was enforced because too many women seemed to be "wearing the trousers". Or look to Calvin in Geneva who hoped to create the perfect Christian city by burning heretics and creating a police state. Is that true Christianity?

Neither Saudi Arabia or Shari'a can claim to represent Islam and those who look to them as "true Islam" are those who refuse to study beyond the images that are portrayed in the Western press, images of the bomb carrying Jihadist, images of the veiled wife who gets beaten at home for wearing lipstick. This is not true Islam.

As for the "they can't change" and "all moderate Muslims want out" comments, I won't go on. As a Christian, I understand how frustrating it is to me when Christianity is mis-represented or when its more unsavoury aspects are highlighted as "true Christianity". Why should it by any different for Islam? For a Christian leader to distort, stereotype and be generally ignorant about the world about him (despite his claim that he's worked in Muslim countries for 50yrs which would have made him 7 years old when he started....), this is not the Christianity that I strive for or that I wish was represented in the media. It's not the kind of Christianity that seeks to bring love and peace.

For those who might be interested in actually doing some study into the religion of Islam I recommend an excellent introduction called "No God but God" by Reza Aslan.


Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this. I got quite upset about it too, and how Campbell was even calling him on what he was saying but couldn't listen since he has worked in muslim countries (where they must practice true islam *sarcasm*) and is thereby a master in the subject.

khany said...

hello Eric,

thank you for posting.

the qur'an says:
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

may peace be with you.

Eric said...

Peace be with you as well Khany. I appreciate your comment.

In the bible, the book of Luke, Jesus exhorts the pharisees to not practice only justice because justice without love is blind. Both are needed and that was part of my issue with Graham's statements.