Falwell recants slur against Muhammad

Falwell recants slur against Muhammad – News

After his words prompted a deadly riot in India, televangelist Jerry Falwell apologized for calling the prophet Muhammad a “terrorist.” “I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for … CBS’s 60 Minutes were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims,” Falwell said in a statement issued October 12. “I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim.”

Falwell said that in his five decades as a Christian minister he had not preached a sermon or written a book on Islam and has respected other faiths. “Unfortunately, I answered one controversial and loaded question at the conclusion of an hourlong CBS interview which I should not have answered,” he said of the interview that aired October 6. “That was a mistake, and I apologize.”

Ron Godwin, president of Jerry Falwell Ministries, told RNS that the statement was intended to calm the unrest in India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Some Muslim leaders welcomed Falwell’s apology, the Associated Press reported. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the grand sheik of Al-Azhar, a Sunni Muslim mosque in Cairo, said Falwell “deserves thanks for his return to the righteous path.” Ayatollah Hussein Mousavi Tabrizi of the Iranian city of Qom said, “A person courageous enough to apologize for his errors is worthy of praise.”

But another prominent Islamic leader, Sheik Zuheir Jaaed, deputy head of the Islamic Ulama Gathering, an association of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim scholars based in Lebanon, said one “cannot insult the prophet, then apologize.” Iranian cleric Mohsen Mostahed Shabestari had called for Falwell’s death, and a general strike in Bombay, India, in protest of the televangelist’s comments led to a Hindu-Muslim riot in which five people were killed and about 50 injured.

Various religious organizations had immediately decried Falwell’s televised remarks labeling Muhammad as violent and a contrast to leaders of Christianity and Judaism. “Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses, and I think Muhammad set an opposite example,” Falwell said.

Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said those words could place Christians at risk. “We condemn Mr. Falwell’s hate speech,” Edgar said in a statement. “It is un-Christlike and shockingly uninformed.”

Falwell, in an interview with New-house News Service, said he might avoid using the word “terrorist” in the future, but stood by his description of Muhammad as “a man of war.” “It might have been a bad choice of words,” he said. “But it is what historians say.”–RNS

COPYRIGHT 2002 The Christian Century Foundation

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