US Muslims say exploitation of Tsunami aid hurts America's image - by CAIR

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Council on American-Islamic Relations

CAIR calls on president to repudiate Jerry Falwell's misuse of suffering


(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/16/05) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the Bush administration to repudiate missionary groups that harm America's international image by seeking to exploit suffering caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami in South Asia.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made that request following revelations of a second attempt by U.S. missionaries to use the vulnerability of tsunami survivors as a vehicle for religious conversion.

In a January 12 "Falwell Confidential" e-mail obtained by CAIR, Virginia-based Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell makes a plea for donations to support relief work in "India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia." The e-mail states that "in this heavily Muslim part of the world, millions have never even heard of Jesus Christ."

(NOTE: Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet of God. The Quran, Islam's revealed text, states: "Behold! The angels said: 'O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.'" [3:45])

According to the e-mail, Liberty University's "Director of International Crusades" will head a team sent to the region to distribute relief supplies. "In addition we will be presenting the Gospel to tens of thousands of persons through distribution of Gospel tracts written in the native languages of the area. Our ultimate purpose for this first mission is to set the stage for many other missions trips to this Asian region by hundreds of Liberty students in the months to come," said the e-mail.

(In 2002, Falwell sparked international controversy when he called the Prophet Muhammad a "terrorist" on the CBS program "60 Minutes.")

"Just when our nation's image in the Islamic world was improving as a result of the outpouring of American aid in the tsunami disaster area, we hear from those who would exploit the tragedy to advance their own extremist agenda," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "It is inappropriate and immoral for any religious group, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, to use badly-needed humanitarian relief as cover for conversion efforts."
Awad said the Bush administration and mainstream Christians need to speak out on this issue to maintain the credibility of American humanitarian groups that do not misuse the access they are granted to vulnerable populations.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that another Virginia missionary group had airlifted 300 Muslim orphans from the Indonesian province of Aceh to Jakarta, where it planned to raise them in a Christian children's home. "If we can place them in a Christian children's home, their faith in Christ could become the foothold to reach the Aceh people," said the group. After an international outcry, the same organization now says it never had custody of the children.

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