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Pentagon invitation to radical priest irks Muslims

Washington, April 15 (Reuters): Muslims at the Pentagon are incensed by what they say is an insensitive invitation to evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, who has called Islam an “evil religion,” to preach on Good Friday at the defence department.

In letters to the Pentagon chaplain’s office this week, Muslim office workers complained strongly about Graham’s plans to lead prayers on Friday, one of the most religious days in the Christian calendar. The letters urged officials to find a “more inclusive and honourable” religious leader to take his place.

A spokesman for Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham and head of a Minneapolis-based evangelist association in his father’s name, confirmed today he would attend Friday’s service, where prayers were likely to focus on US military action in Iraq — a largely Muslim country.

“As far as Friday is concerned, the Reverend Graham will be attending prayers at the Pentagon,” said spokesman Jeremy Blume, adding Graham was in board meetings today and was unlikely to comment personally on the issue.

The Pentagon was not immediately available to comment on the complaints, but a spokeswoman told The Washington Post that Christian employees had requested Graham as a guest preacher and the chaplain’s office would not rescind the invitation.

“If a Jewish group wants to invite a particular speaker, they’ll do that. Muslims hold services here too. The Army chaplains are absolutely nonjudgmental of any faith that soldiers want to follow,” said army spokeswoman Martha Rudd in today’s Post.

Graham angered Muslims after the September 11, 2001, attacks when he called Islam a“very evil and wicked religion.”

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