Charlotte, N.C.--(AP) The Rev. Franklin Graham, responding to criticism of his comments about Islam, said he doesn't believe Muslims are "evil people" but laments evil done in the religion's name. Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, was criticized by several groups for saying earlier that Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion."

In a column in The Wall Street Journal, Graham said he had been "greatly misunderstood" and wanted to create "a more complete picture" of his views. Graham wrote that he does not believe Muslims "are evil people because of their faith. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith - including Christianity."

But he also wrote in Monday's column that "the persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of Islamic conquests and rule for centuries." The Quran, he wrote, "provides ample evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world."

Several interfaith and Muslim groups have criticized Graham for his past comments. In October, Graham said: "We're not attacking Islam, but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion."

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said Graham's latest remarks didn't improve the situation. "When people are in deep water, they shouldn't open their mouths," council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said Tuesday. "It's obviously an attempt to deflect criticism ... but he uses that platform to make new attacks on Islam."

Hooper said his organization hadn't heard from Graham about a meeting Hooper's group requested, but hoped they could talk to him. "This is why he needs to meet with Muslims so he can get real, objective, accurate information."

Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, referred reporters to the column while in Charlotte on Monday at an annual rally where he announced that 150,000 gift-filled shoeboxes would be given to Afghan children. In all, 5 million boxes were to be shipped to children around the world.

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