By Todd Starnes
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)--Evangelist Franklin Graham is not backing away from his statements aired on a national news program that Islam is "wicked, violent and not of the same god."
Graham initially made the remarks in an interview at the October dedication of a chapel in Wilkesboro, N.C.; the remarks were broadcast by NBC News Nov. 16.
"I don't believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion," Graham said. "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."
Asked by NBC News to clarify his statement, Graham stood his ground.
"It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn't Lutherans," Graham told NBC. "It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."
NBC News released the Graham interview on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest season of the Muslim year and it has drawn fire from Muslims as well as the White House.
A spokesperson for the White House noted that President Bush "views Islam as a religion that preaches peace," and that the terrorists do not represent what Islam teaches.
Regardless, in a Nov. 18 statement, Graham said he stood by his earlier comments.
"As a Christian minister, my calling and focus is to proclaim the God of the Christian faith to all who will listen and hear, and to love all people regardless of their faith," Graham said. "It is not my calling to analyze Islam or any other religions though I recognize that all religions have differences. In the past, I have expressed my concerns about the teachings of Islam regarding the treatment of women and the killing of non-Muslims or infidels. I do not intend to comment further."
Graham's response came one day after his ministry's Operation Christmas Child began processing 1 million shoeboxes of toys, school supplies and personal hygiene items for needy children overseas, including thousands destined for many Muslim nations.
"As the leader of an international Christian relief organization, my calling is to provide food, clothing, housing, supplies and medical care to hurting people everywhere regardless of faith," Graham said. "Samaritan's Purse has provided more relief and aid to Muslim people than to any other people in the world -- support amounting to tens of millions of dollars in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Sudan and Afghanistan. As America continues its healing process, I am encouraged by a national surge of faith. I pray that out of tragedy and pain, millions of people will find a renewal of faith."
Used with Permission from the Baptist Press.