The leading Muslim organization in the UK has asked authorities to ban evangelist and son of the late Billy Graham, Franklin Graham from an event in the Northern English town of Blackpool later this month.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella organization for hundreds of Muslim groups in Britain, along with three Members of Parliament, have called on the Home Office to deny Graham a travel visa for what they claim is hate speech.
Members of the public have also called for Graham to be banned, with more than 8,000 people calling for the home secretary to deny Graham a visa in an online petition.
“In the past the government has banned individuals whom they claim are ‘not conducive to the public good’. Mr Graham’s remarks are on record and clearly demonstrate a hatred for Muslims and other minorities,” the MCB said in a statement, according to the Guardian.
“We would expect the government to apply its criteria here. If it does not, it will send a clear message that it is not consistent in challenging all forms of bigotry.”
The Guardian reported: “The preacher, who said Trump’s election victory was evidence that “God’s hand” was at work, has called Islam “evil” and “wicked”, claimed Barack Obama’s “problem is that he was born a Muslim” and said Satan was the architect of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.”
The founder of Tell Mama, which monitors Islamophobia in the UK, Fiyaz Mughal, said Graham being given a platform was shocking and that his views were “regressive and need to be challenged.”
The Labour MP for Blackpool South, Gordon Marsden, said he would write a letter to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, this week to call for Graham to be denied a visa.
“It’s perfectly possible for the government not to admit someone whose presence is not conducive to the public good,” he said. “Graham’s visit to Blackpool is likely to cause considerable offence.”
Both the MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard as well as the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, Afzal Khan have opposed Graham’s visit.
Graham is scheduled to be the main speaker on September 21st at the Festival of Hope, which opens at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens conference center. The event was organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and backed by more than 30 local churches of various denominations.
The Blackpool Methodist Circuit said it “cannot support any preaching or teaching which promotes homophobia or is likely to be damaging to interfaith dialogue,” and declined to support the festival at all “in the light of various comments made by Franklin Graham in the past.”
Pastor Ron Farrington from the independent evangelical Crossgate Church in Preston is one of several churches that have made the choice to withdraw their support for the festival. “I believe Franklin Graham will come to teach the gospel, but many people are upset by his comments and I cannot stand by those comments,” pastor Ron Farrington said.
During the weekend of Graham’s visit, three Blackpool churches are to hold services that specifically cater to LGBT worshipers and even have a model of Jesus wearing a rainbow sash that they plan to parade through the town center.
Blackpool council said they would be forwarding materials and representations received from opponents of Graham’s visit to the Home Office.
“The council’s position on these matters is robust and clear. We want to tackle discrimination, promote equality and increase respect and understanding between people regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation or any such matter that can be subject to prejudice in our society,” said counselor Maria Kirkland.
Kirkland explained that the council had a contractual obligation to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association booking the Winter Gardens, but would make the association aware of the need to comply with UK law.
“If matters are brought to our attention that could constitute incitement to hatred, we will forward these to the relevant public authorities and should this be proved we will not hesitate to terminate this booking,” Kirkland explained.
The home secretary has the power to exclude any individual or group whose presence in the UK in not considered “conducive to the public good” or if their exclusion is justified on public policy grounds, reported the Guardian.
“If matters are brought to our attention that could constitute incitement to hatred, we will forward these to the relevant public authorities and should this be proved we will not hesitate to terminate this booking,” Kirkland said.
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