Press Releases

U.S. Muslims Say Exploitation of Tsunami Aid Hurts America’s Image

(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

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.


CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 30 offices and
chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding
of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American
Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:;
Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail:


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