- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

The Christian Coalition today will hold a forum here on Christianity's clash with Islam, and already has drawn criticism from the American Muslim Council and Interfaith Alliance for failing to include "even one Muslim."
The three-hour symposium, which will highlight Islam's threat to Christianity, is expected to feature five panelists who are "outspoken" in their negative opinion of Islam, said coalition spokesman Ronn Torossian said.
"This symposium is intended to further educate Christians of faith and interested Americans about the true nature of Islam," said Coalition President Roberta Combs, who will give the keynote address.
She will be followed by Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and a critic of Islam, as well as the Rev. Labib Mikhail, an Egyptian who was pastor of Evangelical Bible Church in Fairfax and author of "Islam Is Not a Divine Religion."
The American Muslim Council said the panel included well-known "Muslim bashers," and Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and head of the Interfaith Alliance, questioned the balance of this morning's event at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
"I detected a judgmental bias in your reference to the 'true nature of Islam,'" he said in an open letter to Mrs. Combs. "I know of no one who will benefit from a symposium that presents a skewed, if not biased and outright false, view of Islam."
He said he was "astounded that you are holding an educational event on Islam without the involvement of even one Muslim." The Interfaith Alliance was founded to counter the coalition.
"Many different opinions will be presented which discuss the nature between Islam and terror, and the implications for America of the growing Islamic population in the United States," Mrs. Combs said. Mr. Torossian said the views will not necessarily represent those of the Christian Coalition.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, several evangelical ministers publicly declared Islam a false religion and that Jesus Christ was the only way to salvation.
It began this past June when the Rev. Jerry Vines preached before the annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention that Muhammad was "a demon-possessed pedophile."
Soon after, evangelist Franklin Graham began a book tour for "The Name," in which he defended praying "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" at President Bush's inaugural in January 2001.
In interviews for the book, Mr. Graham excoriated Islam, but by year's end said he would no longer comment on the topic because he was perceived as being on a crusade against Islam, which he said he was not.
Several Southern Baptist missionaries abroad also sent letters to the U.S. mission headquarters in Richmond distancing themselves from Mr. Vines' statement.
This week, Glenn Plummer, chairman of National Religious Broadcasters, declared at the Nashville meeting of the conservative evangelical group that Islam was a "pagan" religion.
He said that the Bible says people can reach God only through Jesus, "not Muhammad" and "not Allah," the Arab name for God.
He clarified that he was not hostile to Islam and added that people likewise can't get to God through Buddha, the Dalai Lama or other religious figures. Similarly, in the past a prominent Southern Baptist leader said, "God does not hear the prayer of a Jew."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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