Turn the Other Sheikh


“A very evil and wicked religion” is how Billy Graham’s son Franklin described Islam after 9-11. “I believe the Koran teaches violence, not peace,” added Franklin Graham, who is one of George W. Bush’s favorite theological friends, having given a prayer at his inauguration. After consulting with U.S. government officials in Jordan, Franklin (who runs a Christian charity group called Samaritan’s Purse) said he had relief workers “poised and ready to roll into Iraq” to help Muslims with the necessities of life, and more important, to start the conversion process to Christianity.

Reconstruction of Iraq, according to Bush, is to be a privatized venture funded by grateful taxpayers. But apparently there will be room for men of the cloth. “Franklin Graham obviously thinks it is a war against Islam,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “This is a guy who gave the invocation at President Bush’s inauguration and believes Islam is a wicked faith. And he’s going to go into Iraq in the wake of an invading army and convert people to Christianity?”

And Franklin Graham won’t be alone. Waiting with Samaritan’s Purse workers in Jordan are relief workers for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has no use for Allah, to put it mildly.

All in all, Iraq is a bonanza for church people. At Camp Bushmaster, army chaplain Josh Llano offers filthy soldiers a dip in his private 500-gallon pool of cool, clear water to get clean. But there’s a hitch. “It’s simple,” he said. “They want water. I have it—as long as they agree to get baptized.” So, to get clean the soldiers first must endure a 90-minute sermon from Llano. “They do appear physically and spiritually cleansed,” Llano said.

Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Joanna Khenkine

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 8, 2003

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