Speaking after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Graham had commented, "I don't believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion." The president of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief agency, added: "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."
"NBC News" reported Friday that when asked to clarify his statement, Graham repeated his charge that Islam, as a whole, was evil. "It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn't Lutherans," he said. "It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."
However, the White House disagreed with Graham's remarks, saying the president "views Islam as a religion that preaches peace," and that the terrorists do not represent what Islam teaches. "NBC News" said the Bush administration "continues to be careful about what it says concerning the religion of Osama bin Laden."
Meanwhile, according to "The (London) Daily Telegraph," President Bush--eager to improve America's reputation in the Muslim world--was today due to welcome 50 ambassadors from Islamic countries for a traditional meal and prayer at the White House to mark Ramadan.
It is believed to be the first time that Muslims were to participate in a formal ceremony in the official home of American presidents. In another unprecedented event, the Muslim chaplain of Georgetown University last week officiated at the opening prayers of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, the "Telegraph" reported.
But it is Graham's "very harsh words for the Muslim faith" that is causing the most negative attention for the Bush administration, "NBC News" said. "A presidential friend and supporter now finds himself at odds with both the Muslim world and the message from the White House," "NBC News" observed.
The son of Billy Graham and the designated successor of the longtime evangelist's ministry, Graham is considered one of America's most powerful Christian leaders. He delivered the benediction at Bush's inauguration and his father has counseled a long list of presidents. "But now Franklin is in trouble with political friends for comments made recently, calling the entire Islamic religion "wicked, violent and not of the same God." "NBC News" said. "There is fallout from such remarks [initially] made last month."
Following the NBC report, Graham said at the weekend: "It is not my primary 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.'" He said that he did not intend to comment further.