Group to Aid, Proselytize in Postwar Iraq

ByABC News
March 27, 2003, 12:15 PM

March 27 -- Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham and one of the nation's most outspoken critics of Islam, said Wednesday he has relief workers "poised and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for the population's post-war physical and spiritual needs.

Graham, who has publicly called Islam a "wicked" religion, said the relief agency he runs, Samaritan's Purse, is in daily contact with U.S. government agencies in Amman, Jordan, about its plans. The group's main objective is to help refugees and people who have lost their homes or are sick and hungry as a result of the war, Graham told Beliefnet. "We realize we're in an Arab country and we just can't go out and preach," Graham said in a telephone interview from Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C.

However, he added, "I believe as we work, God will always give us opportunities to tell others about his Son....We are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian I do this in the name of Jesus Christ."

Graham didn't seem concerned that the public presence in Iraq of Samaritan's Purse which has put out a press release about its activities could prompt already-skeptical Muslims worldwide to view the war as a crusade against Islam.

"We would not go in and participate in something that would embarrass our administration," he said. But he added, "We don't work for the U.S. government, so we don't get our permission from them."

Some Muslims were outraged that Graham would be allowed to help with Iraq's humanitarian effort.

Islamic Backlash

"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? Nothing good is coming of that."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Agency for International Development said Wednesday night she could not comment on short notice.