To be honest, I’d missed Franklin Graham’s ruminations on Islam last week when CNN’s Campbell Brown interviewed him but lots of Muslim groups did not. First, I’ve included the transcript below so you can read it for yourselves.
I also thought it interesting that he arranged for a get-together between his dad and Sarah Palin. The elder Graham rarely ventures from his cabin in western North Carolina and it’s near-impossible to get an interview with him so why Sarah got an ‘in’ there does make one wonder if the Grahams think she’s possible presidential material.
- Julia Duin, religion editor
BROWN: Earlier today, I spoke with one of the world’s most influential evangelists and he is tonight’s intriguing person, the Reverend Franklin Graham. I asked him about the president’s comments.
BROWN: You have a son who is serving in Afghanistan?
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PRESIDENT, SAMARITAN’S PURSE: Yes.
BROWN: He’s on his fourth deployment?
GRAHAM: Fourth deployment.
BROWN: So in the context of that, in your personal experience with this war, tell me what you thought of the president’s speech today.
GRAHAM: Well, first of all, I support the president and his decision to send an additional 30,000 troops. I felt sorry for the president in some ways accepting the Nobel Peace Prize but having to defend the war in Afghanistan which I believe is the right decision. So I certainly support it, the president in his decision and what he had to say today in his speech. So I was very, very proud of him.
BROWN: Do you see the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq for that matter, do you see these as religious wars in any way?
GRAHAM: We in this country do not look at it that way. They do, however, Al Qaeda, and the people that support them, the Taliban. It is a religious war with them. And they see all Americans, they see this is a Christian nation. And it is a religious war for them, but, of course, not for us. We don’t see it that way.
BROWN: You got a lot of flak after 9/11 because you said that Islam in your view was an evil and a wicked religion. You heard the opposite from President Obama today…
BROWN: … in his speech.
What did you think of that in particular?
GRAHAM: Well, first of all —
BROWN: Was that a mistake for him to say that?
GRAHAM: Well, the president is the president and he has to be the president of all people, of the whole nation. And we have many Muslims that live in this country. But true Islam cannot be practiced in this country. 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 practice in these other countries.
BROWN: And that’s true Islam to you? Because what the president said today was Islam is a great religion.
GRAHAM: You have to look, first of all, I agreed with the president on what he had to say as far as our nation at war. But as it relates to Islam, if you want to study Islam, look at Saudi Arabia. Is this a country of tolerance? Is this a —
BROWN: But can that just be one interpretation or no?
GRAHAM: Well, the whole nation is not an interpretation, but if you want to look at Afghanistan, you want to look at Iraq, what they’re doing to each other is just brutal.
But, listen, Islam, I love the people of Islam. And I work in Muslim countries all over the world. But when you see countries that where they live under Sharia law, Islamic law, where that is the law of the land, Campbell, trust me girl, you don’t want to live there.
BROWN: But is that all Islam means to you because there’s certainly many people who, you know, define themselves as Muslim who don’t practice in those extremes?
GRAHAM: That’s right, Campbell, and they would like to get out of Islam. But they cannot because —
BROWN: I don’t think that’s true. Do you think they all want to be —
GRAHAM: No, no. I said many of them would like to get out, but you cannot change from Islam. If you’re a Muslim and you change your religion, you can be killed. Your family can kill you. They can warn you but if you don’t come back, they can take your life. And that is the threat that many of these people live under Islam.
I’ve been working in some countries for 50 years, Campbell. And what they do to where I work in the southern Sudan where they tried to annihilate the Christians in the south, just murdered two million of them. All of this has taken place and all of it was done under the name of Islam. But there are millions of wonderful Muslim people. And I love them. I have friends that are Muslims and I work in those countries. But I don’t agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.
BROWN: Let me shift gears and ask you about domestic politics.
Sarah Palin, you recently helped arrange a dinner between your father, the Reverend Billy Graham, and Sarah Palin. How did that go? What did they talk about?
GRAHAM: You know, she’s — Campbell, she’s a very nice person. I got to know her in Alaska. I have a home up there and I was there last year in the winter. And there was a food shortage out on the Yukon and I called the governor’s office to see if we could help because we have cargo planes in Alaska. When the book tour started taking shape, I realized that she was going to be very close to his home and so she came by to see him.
BROWN: Would you support her if she ran for president?
GRAHAM: Oh, I don’t know. She’s a nice lady and she’s a sharp lady. Campbell, we got a long way to go. I don’t think she’s going to run.
BROWN: Before I let you go, let me talk to you about something you’ve been doing for 13 years, is that right?
GRAHAM: Thirteen years, yes.
BROWN: Operation Christmas Child project. Explain to us what it is.
GRAHAM: Campbell, we ask people to take an empty shoebox, fill it with items for a child. This particular box is for a girl, and it’s got a doll. It’s got thing things for her hair. It’s got toys, it’s got candy, school supplies.
BROWN: And you take these all over the world. GRAHAM: A hundred and five countries this year, 8.3 million of these boxes have been put together. We ask everybody put your picture in here, put your address in here. I want the kid who gets the box to see who gave it. But more importantly, I ask people to pray. Pray not for the box, but pray for the child who’s going to get the box. And we know God will hear the prayer of one righteous person.
Can you imagine eight million people praying to God for eight million children that God just might hear those prayers and do something in a wonderful way for these children? It’s called Operation Christmas Child. There’s more children out there than we have gifts for.
BROWN: Reverend Franklin Graham, it’s very good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Campbell.