Evangelist and son of the late Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, is due to travel to the UK this month for a preaching event in the Northern English town of Blackpool. But now, a leading British Muslim organization is calling on the Home Office to deny Graham a travel visa, citing some prior statements he has made which the group believes to be “Islamophobic and homophobic.”
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), along with three Member’s of Parliament, are calling on the Home Office to invoke its rules on refusing visas to those it deems as proponents of “hate speech.”
“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.”
In July, the town’s local bus company, Blackpool Transport and Stagecoacemoved, banned adverts that were promoting the gospel event, adding that they were not “consistent with our company values.”
Local politician Maria Kirkland said that she would be prepared to break contract with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association “if matters are brought to our attention that could constitute incitement to hatred,” with regards to Rev. Graham’s preaching visit.
The Anglican bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, whose diocese includes Blackpool, said he took a “neutral” position on Graham’s visit. “I must be very clear … I do not support any kind of hate speech, including the language of Islamophobia, Christianophobia or homophobia,” he said. “There is a difference between having a different point of view and expressing hate. Within the Christian ethic there is no room for hate of another person and I do not defend the use of such language.”
Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama, an anti-Islamaphobia group, said Graham’s views were “regressive” and said he was shocked that the minister was being given any sort of platform in the UK. The Labour MP for Blackpool South, Gordon Marsden, said he would be writing to Sajid Javid, the home secretary, to push for Graham to be banned from British shores.
“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 offense.”
Blackpool has some of the worst public health statistics in the country. According to a 2017 Public Health England report, the health of people in Blackpool is “worse than the England average” and Blackpool itself is “one of the 20% most
deprived districts/unitary authorities in England.”
Substance misuse is rampant in the Lancashire seaside town, and a huge proportion of the population smokes. In fact, this summer, the local theme parks offered pregnant women vouchers for entry to the attractions in a bid to stop them smoking while carrying their unborn babies.
More from the BBC:
“Pregnant women are to be given incentives including theme park vouchers in a scheme which aims to encourage them to quit smoking. The project is part of a wider drive to reduce smoking in Blackpool, and has been backed by councillors. It will see support workers monitoring women’s carbon monoxide levels to prove they have quit.”
In short, Blackpool needs the gospel, and it is desperate for a spiritual renewal that would certainly turn the place around. With this in mind, the staunch politicians attempting to ban Franklin Graham from coming and presenting the message of Jesus to thousands is staggeringly short-sighted. But it is to be expected. Let’s pray that the name of Christ will be lifted high in this broken town, and might we even dream that thousands could come to faith in Him?
The Festival of Hope is set to open its doors at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens conference centre on 21 September.