Rev. Franklin Graham is spreading a divisive message of intolerance in response to last week’s deadly attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In a Facebook post, Graham writes: “We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized.”
Islamophobia is never the answer. Even worse would be a discriminatory change in policy that undermines our religious freedoms. Millions of Muslims live peacefully in America as citizens, visitors, and legal residents. They are our neighbors, friends, colleagues, family. Graham is simply wrong to blame all Muslims for the horrific violent attack of one person, even if that crime was perpetrated under a distorted view of Islam.
Sadly, we have seen this kind of reaction all too often in recent years, not just from folks like Rev. Graham but also in discriminatory law enforcement practices and misguided legislation. In 2013, following the Boston Marathon bombing, Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director Brent Walker wrote a column discussing this problem.
Here is an excerpt that rings true today as a powerful antidote to Franklin Graham’s religious scapegoating:
Islamophobia is born of ignorance, mixed with a toxic dose of fear and anger. Can somebody cherry pick proof texts for violence in the Quran? Yes, you can. But you can do the same in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Should all of Islam — practiced by about one fifth of the world’s population — be impugned by aberrant acts of criminals who happened to be motivated by their perverted understanding of their religion? Absolutely not, no more than all of Christendom can be blamed for violence spawned over the years by the Ku Klux Klan or all Baptists because of the rhetorical terrorism spewed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
The threat of violent Islamic terrorism is out there and must be resisted with all our might. But equally real are peace-loving, patriotic American Muslims — shall we hazard a guess of 99.99 percent? — whom we need to befriend and get to know.
Franklin’s famous father, Rev. Billy Graham, reportedly once said, “I have some wonderful friends among the Muslim people and have great respect and tolerance for them. Because we are a pluralistic society, we are going to have to recognize that we are no longer just a Jewish and Christian society.” More Grahams like that, please.