- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

Two U.S. religious leaders yesterday condemned Iranian Muslim death threats made against three American Protestant ministers who have called Islam "wicked" and Muhammad a "terrorist" and "fanatic."
"Responding to intolerance with greater intolerance hurts, not helps," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance.
He questioned the wisdom of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Rev. Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson for making derisive remarks about Islam but said it did not warrant calls for their death by Muslim leaders.
"To call for the killing of persons whose comments about other religions have been historically wrong and patently offensive" contradicts the "highest values" shared by faiths, he said in a statement issued yesterday.
The Rev. Bob Edgar, executive director of the National Council of Churches, also criticized Mr. Falwell's "terrorist" statement made in a "60 Minutes" interview earlier this month.
"We need to speak out against violence," he said yesterday. He said he joined other church leaders' condemnation of intolerance in a Sunday broadcast to Lebanon.
Mr, Falwell's "60 Minutes" interview has been linked to riots in some Muslim countries, and some political observers say it helped the more-radical Islamist party win more seats in Pakistan's recent election. In the days after its broadcast, a radical newspaper in Iran and a Shi'ite cleric separately called for Muslims to kill the three Protestant ministers.
The State Department had "no official comment" on the verbal death threats, which have frequently emanated from radical clerics abroad.
The most famous case was the official fatwa, or religious decree, of the top religious leader of Iran in 1989 to kill Salman Rushdie, who wrote a novel that ridiculed Muhammad and Islam. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have "blasphemy laws" banning public criticism of Islam's founder.
Mr. Graham, son of the famed evangelist, has been unapologetic for his criticism of Islam as "wicked" and, a spokesman said yesterday, "We don't have anything to add."
Mr. Robertson has stood by his comment that the founder of Islam was an "absolute wild-eyed fanatic." His Christian Coalition rallied for Israel in front of the White House recently.
After the "60 Minutes" interview controversy, Mr. Falwell said he had been cornered by the CBS interviewer and does not preach such ideas.
The three evangelical ministers believe the Jews must control Jerusalem before Christ can return.
In Iran, where the Muslim radicals are Shi'ites who often war with Sunni Muslims such as the Sunnis who attacked the World Trade Towers and Pentagon linked the three Protestant ministers to Israel.
The Abrar newspaper in Iran reported that in a Friday sermon on Oct. 11 in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Ayatollah Mohsen Mujtahed Shabestari said, "in our opinion, to kill these three is necessary."
Though not mentioning them by name, the religious representative from the capital spoke of three as "the Israeli mercenaries" who needed to be "separated from other Christians."
A few days earlier, the editor of the hard-line Kayhan evening newspaper said, "In accord with Islam, it is imperative to kill the three priests linked to the Zionists because they have insulted Islam and the prophet."
He also called for an attack on American embassies.

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