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Context of 'June 10-11, 2002: Evangelist Says Islam Founded by ‘Demon-Possessed Pedophile,’ Turns Believers into ‘Terrorists’'

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A few days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush invites a small group of evangelical, conservative Christians to the White House to discuss the theological implications of the attacks. James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, says, “Mr President, you and I are fellow believers in Jesus Christ.” Bush nods. “We both believe there is a sovereign God in control of this universe.” Bush again agrees. “Since God knew that those planes would hit those towers before you and I were born,” Merritt says, “since God knew that you would be sitting in that chair before this world was ever created, I can only draw the conclusion that you are God’s man for this hour.” Upon hearing these words, Bush begins to cry. [Unger, 2007, pp. 218-219]

Entity Tags: James Merritt, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Reverend Franklin Graham.Reverend Franklin Graham. [Source: Trinity Broadcasting Network]Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of renowned televangelist Billy Graham, decries Islam as a “wicked religion” that calls for “the killing of non-Muslims or infidels.” Graham says, referring to the 9/11 attacks: “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s 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.” Asked to clarify his statement, Graham reiterates his position, saying: “I don’t believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim.… 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.” American Muslims challenge Graham’s statements. Ali Akber, a North Carolina Muslim who has worked to bring Jews and Muslims together, says Graham’s words are “spreading hatred. It is the same God. We just don’t worship the same way. We all believe in God and charity and worshipping and not doing any evil.” Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America adds, “Islam never teaches hatred, Islam never teaches terrorism.” The White House distances itself from Graham’s remarks, issuing a statement that says the president “views Islam as a religion that preaches peace” and adding that the terrorists do not represent what Islam teaches. Newsweek religion editor Ken Woodward says: “Obviously, Mr. Graham is tone deaf in this respect. He’s certainly not his father’s son in terms of discretion.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 257; Islam Online, 11/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Billy Graham, Ali Akber, Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, Ken Woodward, Franklin Graham

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The Reverend Jerry Vines.The Reverend Jerry Vines. [Source: Thomas White]Reverend Jerry Vines, pastor of a large Baptist church in Florida, denounces Islam as being responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and criticizes America’s propensity for “religious pluralism” as making the nation vulnerable to further attacks as well as causing other social ills. In his statement, made to an audience at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Vines insults Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammed: “They would have us believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity,” Vines says. “Christianity was founded by the virgin-born son of God, Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, the last one of which was a 9-year-old girl.” Muslims do not worship the same god as Christians do, he adds: “And I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan says after Vines’s remarks that President Bush “believes Islam is a religion that teaches peace. The president believes in religious tolerance and respects people of all faiths.” The day after Vines’s incendiary remarks, Bush addresses the SBC meeting via satellite to extol Baptists’ tolerance, praising their “extraordinary influence” on American history and saying, “Baptists were among the earliest champions of religious tolerance and freedom.” Vines’s remarks echo earlier attacks on Islam by other prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (see October 2001). Other evangelical Christians, including the Reverend Jerry Falwell, rush to support Vines’s remarks, but Jewish leaders and mainstream Protestant groups join American Muslims in denouncing the remarks. Abraham Foxman, the director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, calls Vines’s remarks “deplorable,” and says such inflammatory language is “not surprising coming from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has a track record of denigrating and delegitimizing other religions.” [Washington Post, 6/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Jerry Vines, Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, George W. Bush, Scott McClellan, Southern Baptist Convention

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Influential evangelist and political activist Jerry Falwell calls the Prophet Muhammed, the founder of Islam, a “terrorist,” telling a CBS News interviewer: “I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and non-Muslims [to know] that he was a—a violent man, a man of war.” In contrast, Falwell says: “Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. I think Muhammad set an opposite example.” After a global eruption of outrage at Falwell’s statements, he issues a backhanded apology: “I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for CBS’s 60 Minutes were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims. I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim.” His denunciation of Muhammed came as an answer to what he calls a “controversial and loaded question” at the end of an hour-long interview. The backlash from Falwell’s remarks is severe. At least five people are killed and around 50 injured when Hindu-Muslim rioting over the remarks breaks out in India. Shi’ite Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Iran express their outrage over Falwell’s remarks, with one Iranian cleric saying that Falwell is a “mercenary and must be killed.” Since Falwell’s remarks, hundreds of Muslim protesters will twice gather outside the CBS building in New York City to demand an apology from the network. [CBS News, 10/14/2002] Falwell’s remarks echo earlier denunciations of Islam by other American Christian evangelicals (see October 2001 and June 10-11, 2002).

Entity Tags: Jerry Falwell, CBS News

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

A number of Christian organizations speak out against the announced plans by Florida pastor Terry Jones to burn a Koran (see July 12, 2010 and After and September 9, 2010), including the 45,000-church National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The NAE, an umbrella group for conservative Christian churches, has issued a statement asking Jones to cancel the burning “in the name and love of Jesus Christ.” Reverend Rick Warren, an SBC member and pastor of a Southern California “megachurch,” says, “Book burning is a cowardly act by those afraid that their beliefs aren’t strong enough to attract people if they are allowed a choice.” Reverend Richard Land, head of the SBC’s public policy arm, calls the plan “abhorrent.” George Wood, a senior official of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, warns of damage to Christian-Muslim relations. But Jones remains unmoved by the exhortations of his colleagues, saying that Christian churches have “given up” in what he says is their moral and spiritual duty to condemn and oppose Islam. [Associated Press, 9/8/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 9/9/2010]

Entity Tags: Southern Baptist Convention, George Wood, National Association of Evangelicals, Rick Warren, Terry Jones (pastor), Richard Land

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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