Evangelist Franklin Graham has said that while the "vast majority" of Muslims are peaceful, he is nevertheless "terrified" by the millions who believe suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians is "justified to defend Islam."
In a lengthy op-ed for USA Today, Graham, the leader of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, contended that after the terrorist attack in Nice, France, it's difficult to take comfort in knowing that the "majority" of the world's 1.6 followers of Islam are peaceful.
"What does that mean for the rest of the world's second-largest religion, and how many fall into the minority group who may have different views?" he asked.
The 64-year-old son of Billy Graham cited a Pew Research Center survey from December which revealed some "little-discussed, but chilling, findings" about the adherents to Islam. While 86% of Muslims in America believe violence against non-Muslims is "rarely or never" justified," 7% believe it is "sometimes" justified in the name of Islam, and 1% said "often."
"Whoa! This means there are more than 100,000 Muslim adults living in this country who could justify a suicide bombing in the name of their religion," wrote Graham. "That is not to say that 8% would actually strap on an explosives-packed vest, but the fact that so many find it justifiable is scary enough. And the most likely place that terrorist recruiters or Internet propagandists will find American Muslims who'd be willing to kill is among those Muslims who don't see anything wrong with it."
The evangelist suggested that such findings have terrifying worldwide implications: "If we applied the United States' 8% figure of those who would 'sometimes' or 'often' justify suicide bombings and other forms of violence in the name of Islam, there'd be more than 100 million people around the world who just might condone the next terrorist attack," he warned. "And that number might be low."
Graham explained that he is not attempting to comment on immigration policies, gun control policies, or various interpretations of the Quran. Rather, he is simply sharing his thoughts on the "tens of thousands of Muslims in America and the more than 100 million worldwide who are not bashful about justifying suicide bombings in the name of Islam."
"Who would knowingly and willingly accept these odds of a peaceful existence in their own family, neighborhood, workplace or church?" he asked. "For example, would you feel safe accepting a job at a "mostly peaceful" company of 100 employees if that meant only eight of them believed a suicide bombing was sometimes or often justified in the name of their religion (or in the name of anything, for that matter)? Would you stay at a hotel whose employees were 'mostly peaceful'? Would you trust your car to not explode randomly if a company who boasted its workers were mostly peaceful had made it?"
To drive his point home, Graham quoted ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who once stated that "Islam was never a religion of peace" despite what many in the secular media say.
"Islam is the religion of fighting," al-Baghdadi said. "No one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State. It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it. It is the war of Muslims against infidels. Oh Muslims, go to war everywhere. It is the duty of every Muslim."
Graham concluded: "Now, as a Christian, I'm sure glad that hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide would reject this religious madman's rant. It's the millions who apparently agree with him who terrify me."
Religion News Service notes that Graham has long been an outspoken critic of Islam, and referred to it as a "very evil and wicked religion" after the 9/11 terrorist attacks." Last December, the evangelist announced his support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.
After four Marines and a sailor were fatally shot at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee by an Islamic extremist, Graham asserted that the country should "should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled."
"Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized - and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad," Graham wrote at the time. "During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now?"