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18 July 2006

Muslim Group Wants Christian Leader Barred from Canada

medium_long_live.3.jpg(CNSNews.com) - An Islamic advocacy group wants Rev. Franklin Graham barred from entering Canada because of allegedly hateful statements made

towards Islam. Graham's spokesman says the Evangelical minister's comments have been "misconstrued" by some Muslims.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Canada (CAIR-CAN) claims allowing Graham into Canada would be evidence of a "double standard." British Muslim Riyad ul-Haq was denied entry into Canada in June after being accused of inciting hatred towards Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims - a violation of Canada's so-called "
hate propaganda laws."

"We do not welcome hate-mongers," said Leslie Harmer, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, the official who ordered that Canadian authorities block ul-Haq from entering the country.

CAIR-CAN noted that shortly after the 9/11 attacks Graham called Islam "a very evil and a very wicked religion." The group argues that, like ul-Haq, Graham should be forbidden to come to Canada for a scheduled visit later this year.

"The comments they have made are very widely available, and there isn't a great deal of difference between the two individuals," CAIR-CAN Communications Director Halima Mautbur told Cybercast News Service.

The group is further dismayed with the government's decision, because ul-Haq promised he would not speak about anything controversial while he was in Canada.

CAIR-CAN Executive Director Karl Nickner said in a news release Thursday that "some Canadian Muslims are wondering whether a double standard is being applied."

"As Muslims and as Canadians," Nickner added, "we stand firmly against any hateful religious speech by representatives of all faiths."

But Graham, who is president of his father's Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), previously explained that he does not hate Muslim people and only wants to speak out about crimes committed in the name of Islam.

Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the association, said Graham would not comment further on the matter because he already responded in an opinion-editorial piece for the Wall Street Journal, clarifying statements he said the Muslim community misconstrued.

"It is not what he is about. He is about relief work, about spreading hope of Jesus Christ," Blume said. "People misconstrue when he talks about it. They think he is against Islam and people of Islam. That is why he wrote this, so people could refer to it and just be done with it so he can get back to relief work.""

In his essay, Graham said that he does not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith, adding that he has many Muslim friends.

"While as Christians we disagree with Islamic teachings, if we obey the teachings of Jesus, we will love all Muslims," Graham wrote.

"But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith - including Christianity," Graham continued. "I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching."

Despite Graham's explanation, CAIR-CAN is demanding that the Canadian government clarify its position on freedom of speech.

"We have sort of entered into an area which is creating a lot of confusion for our community given the differential treatment of these two clerics," said Mautbur. "It is incumbent on the government to provide some information to Canadians about how exactly this sort of policy of censorship is going to be used, and when it is going to be used."

Canadian officials have not responded to CAIR-CAN's complaints. Graham is still scheduled to visit Winnipeg in October.

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