Sarah Palin Is Right About Franklin Graham’s Speech Rights

Sarah Palin is right. Franklin Graham should be allowed to express his views that Islam is a “a very evil and wicked religion.” In fact, I also applaud Franklin Graham for having the conviction of his faith to use his bully pulpit to draw hard theological walls. Although I totally disagree with his interpretation, the fact of the matter is that religions have certain redlines that cannot be crossed. As a Muslim, I cannot accept the divinity of Jesus. For someone like Graham, that means we can never converse. Palin is absolutely right that he should not be penalized for his views.

However, Palin is also wrong. Graham is not being penalized. The focus of the Pentagon’s actions in disinviting Graham from the National Day of Prayer (and also canceling the entire event) are not Graham, but unit cohesion. While Graham’s ego may be bruised, his presence would send a message that the military is not welcoming to non-Christians. This attitude creates division in the ranks and says that the law of the land — full equality for all citizens — is irrelevant. Neither message is a good one for the country. No one has told Graham to change what he says, or to change his beliefs. I am sure there are a good number of service members who agree with him. The key thing is that the government is not making it official policy to exclude large swathes of people. It is for similar reasons that the Pentagon does not invite Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. I think Palin should speak out in support of him next. Being representative of the country means putting the country ahead of individual pride. Graham threatened the cohesion of the country. That that does not make him evil. It does not mean he is a traitor. It means that he should not be given an implicit endorsement by the government, thereby legitimizing his views as American views. So Palin is right for Graham, just not right for America.

hrashid@mac.com'

Hussein Rashid is a native New Yorker and Proud Muslim. Currently an instructor at the Center for Spiritual Inquiry at Park Avenue Christian Church and based at Hofstra University, he is deeply committed to interfaith work and is passionate about teaching. He believes we need to start talking more intelligently about Islam specifically, and religion generally.