ASHEVILLE, NC (RNS) — In an announcement that has shocked the evangelical world, evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the world-famous preacher Billy Graham, declared that he has recently converted to Islam.
Graham made the surprising declaration at a news conference held at the retreat centre previously called “The Cove,” but that Graham said would henceforward be called “The Cave,” out of respect for the site in which the Prophet Muhammad first received the revelation that would become the Qur’an.
Graham explained his conversion as a matter of both identity and affinity.
“First,” he said, “I’m tired of being constantly in my daddy’s shadow. I love him and all, but I’m just really sick of always being compared to him.” Graham currently is head of The Samaritan’s Purse, a widely admired relief organization he founded, but also of his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). “I’ve enjoyed using Daddy’s sermons, updating them a bit to appeal to the young people, and seeing the crowds come forward at the rallies as usual. That’s fine, just fine. But,” he added, “it’s time for me to go out on my own. I mean, I’m a grown man now,” said the 62-year-old Graham, “and I want to be recognized for my own accomplishments.”
As for affinity, Graham said, “I like Islam because it’s so darned simple. I frankly never really understood all that Trinity mumbo-jumbo and now I don’t have to.” He flashed the trademark Graham grin. “I mean, I still like Jesus a lot, as all good Muslims do. But what’s great is that I don’t have to try to believe any longer that he suffered and died some awful death. That’s just gruesome stuff, and I’m glad to be done with it. God’s prophets succeed, they don’t fail! And who doesn’t like success!”
Graham also referred to what he called “good, clear Islamic ideas” about geopolitics, gender, and the Last Judgment. “No more shilly-shallying about the will of God, that’s for sure,” Graham said. “The Kingdom of God should triumph. Men should be men and women should be women. And God will give his enemies their just deserts at the End, which will come very, very soon, inshallah.”
When asked by a reporter, however, about which branch of Islam he had joined, Graham looked confused. “What do you mean? Is there more than one kind?” An aide leaned over and whispered something in his ear, after which Graham added, “I’m joining the right kind. The kind that believes Holy Scripture is the very Word of God, that obeys everything it commands, and that denounces everyone who claims to be a true believer but in any way deviates from true doctrine and faithful practice.”
When another reporter, referring to a recent article in The Atlantic, suggested that Graham’s characterization of authentic Islam sounded very much like the Wahhabi movement, or even ISIS, Graham’s aide stopped him from answering any more questions and the press conference was hurriedly adjourned.
No comment was available from Billy Graham or Samaritan’s Purse. A spokesperson from the BGEA said only that “we are praying for Franklin, as we always have been.”