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24 April 2010

Pentagon rebuffs critic of Islam

The U.S. Army on Thursday withdrew an invitation to a Christian evangelist to speak at a Pentagon prayer service next month following an outcry over his references to Islam as a violent religion.

Franklin Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said in a statement he regretted the army's decision and would keep praying for U.S. troops.

The invitation prompted a harsh reaction, including from a prominent U.S. Muslim group that said Graham's appearance before Pentagon personnel would send the wrong message as the United States fights wars in Muslim countries.

In an interview last year with CNN, Graham said "true Islam" was too violent to be practised in the United States.

"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 practise in these other countries," he said. "I don't agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion."

The interview can be seen at youtube.com.

The army said it did not invite Graham to the May 6 event organized through the Pentagon Chaplain's office. The invitation was instead extended by the private, Coloradobased National Day of Prayer Task Force.

"Once the army leadership became aware that Rev. Graham was speaking at this event, we immediately recognized it as problematic," said Col. Tom Collins, an army spokesman.

"The bottom line here is that his presence would be inappropriate. His past statements are not consistent with the multi-faith emphasis and inclusiveness of this event."

Graham acknowledged the decision, saying in a statement: "I will continue to pray that God will give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country."

U.S. President Barack Obama and the military have repeatedly sought to assure the Muslim world that the U.S. fight against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be viewed as a war against Islam.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said the invitation was damaging to the U.S. image.

"To have an individual who calls Islam evil and claims Muslims are enslaved by their faith speak at the Pentagon sends entirely the wrong message," said the group's national executive director, Nihad Awad.

Graham will be in Edmonton on Thursday to meet with supporters and pastors. He is president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada and Samaritan's Purse Canada.

Local meetings with Graham will focus on Samaritan's Purse projects and this summer's BGEAC Rock the River concert at Telus Field, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 28. For more information, go to rocktherivertour.com

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