Image: Franklin Graham
Cliff Owen  /  AP
Rev. Franklin Graham prepares to leave the Pentagon, Thursday after praying on a sidewalk outside.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/6/2010 11:20:38 AM ET 2010-05-06T15:20:38

Evangelist Franklin Graham prayed on a sidewalk outside the Pentagon Thursday after his invitation to a prayer service inside was withdrawn because of comments that insulted people of other religions.

Graham's invitation to attend an event inside the Defense Department for national prayer day was withdrawn two weeks ago.

But he arrived in the Pentagon parking lot just before 8 a.m. EDT — his party of a half dozen people forming a circle on the sidewalk and praying with heads bowed for about five minutes.

Nine years ago, Graham called Islam "wicked" and "evil."

He told an impromptu press conference Thursday outside the Pentagon that he prayed for the men and women of the armed forces and that he doesn't feel his statements about other religions have been offensive.

'I am who I am'
In an interview with Newsweek, Graham said he still believed what he had said about Islam, but added: "I don't go out and speak about it."

"I am who I am. I don't believe that you can get to heaven through being a Buddhist or Hindu," Graham was quoted as saying by the magazine. "I think Muhammad only leads to the grave. Now, that's what I believe, and I don't apologize for my faith. And if it's divisive, I'm sorry."

"I think yelling 'Allahu Akbar' as you're flying jet airplanes through buildings and killing 3,000 Americans — that was evil and it was wicked," he added. "And I've not heard one Islamic leader around the world stand up and say that was a terrible thing … If Catholics had flown into these buildings in the name of Catholicism, the pope would have been on TV that night denouncing them, saying this was wrong and what they did was sin."

"It would be nice if we could just all sit around and hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' It would be great, but that's not the world we live in," he told Newsweek.

Graham also said he had been "disinvited" from the prayer service "because of my faith and what I believe."

"I think the Obama administration better be careful. Millions of evangelical Christians voted for him in the last election," he told Newsweek.

He added that while he believed Obama was a Christian, the Islamic world "see him as one of their own."

"If the president and his administration wants to cut guys like myself out, that's fine," Graham told Newsweek. "But it's just sending a signal to the evangelical community that, you know, our people aren't important to him."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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