Heated Debate Over Place of Islam in the United States

Amanpour moderates town hall: 'Should Americans Fear Islam?'

ByABC News
October 3, 2010, 7:24 AM

October 3, 2010— -- On a special "This Week" town hall, Christiane Amanpour moderated a fiery debate over the place of Islam in America. The first question the "This Week" anchor put to her panelists on all sides of the issue was: should Americans fear Islam?

Peter Gadiel, who lost his son in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said that he would like nothing more than to not be afraid of Islam, but to ignore the "history of Muslim terror attacks," he said, would be unwise. Gadiel, who is a board member of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America Foundation, said "to ignore that threat is to ignore the history of Islam."

Donna Marsh O'Connor, who lost her daughter in the 9/11 attacks, said that Americans should not live in fear of a whole group of people. "I think Americans should fear criminal behavior. I think we should do the best we can to control criminal behavior. But I can't raise my two remaining sons to fear the people who live next door to them. That is not what my grandparents came to America to escape," she said.

"We are a group of 9/11 family members. I know a lot of family members are here. We share the pain and, you know, I think the unfortunate piece of this is that we don't agree on this," O'Connor added.

Amanpour then turned to the Reverend Franklin Graham, who has called Islam "wicked" and "evil." Graham said he understood what Muslims in America were trying to do. "They want to build as many mosques and cultural centers as they possibly can so they can convert as many Americans as they can to Islam. I understand that," Graham said.

"That's your position?" Amanpour asked Graham.

"Sure," the Revered said. "And I understand what they're doing. ... But let me just say something about Islam. I love the Muslim people. But I have great difficulty with the religion, especially with Sharia law and what it does for women -- toward women, toward non-believers, the violence that is given in -- under Sharia law," Graham told the town hall audience.

Amanpour turned to Reza Aslan, a scholar and a contributing editor and The Daily Beast. "Reza, you have heard just right now several points raised. One is that Muslims in this country are trying to bring Sharia law. Is there a shred of evidence for that?" Amanpour asked.