Muslim cleric in Iran calls for death of Falwell

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Shiite Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Iran have reacted with rage at the Rev. Jerry Falwell for calling Islam's prophet a terrorist and an envoy of Iran's supreme leader reportedly called for his death.

Iranian cleric Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari, addressing weekly Friday prayers in the northwestern town of Tabriz, said Falwell was a "mercenary and must be killed," the Farsi-language daily Abrar reported Saturday.

"The death of that man is a religious duty, but his case should not be tied to the Christian community," Shabestari, a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying.

In an interview broadcast last week on the CBS program "60 Minutes," Falwell said: "I think Muhammad was a terrorist."

The conservative Baptist minister said he has concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that Islam's prophet "was a violent man, a man of war."

Falwell will be coming to Cape Girardeau on Oct. 20 to speak at a crusade.

In Lebanon Saturday, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah called on Muslim countries to respond to Falwell who, he said, had "infringed on the prophet Muhammad's dignity."

Fadlallah, however, cautioned against resorting to "physical violence" against Falwell, saying Islam is "a religion of mercy and love."

In a statement issued in Beirut, Fadlallah also urged Muslims worldwide to counter what he called "a cultural war" launched against Islam following Sept. 11 terror attacks.

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