Comparing US values to Saudi Arabia an 'appalling and laughable argument': Aslan

During a debate over Islam in the US, Rev. Franklin Graham used a familiar argument against the religion: It's unfair that Muslims can build mosques in the US while Christians can't build churches in Saudi Arabia, according to Graham.

"I understand what the Muslims want to do in America," said Graham on ABC's This Week Sunday. "They want to build as many mosques and cultural centers as they possibly can so they can convert as many Americans as they can to Islam."

"And I just don't have the freedom to do this in most Muslim countries. We can't have a church. We're not able to build synagogues. It's forbidden."

But an imam who is trying to build an Islamic center in Tennessee disagreed. "For someone to say we are not allowed to build a church in a Muslim country, this is absolutely not right," said Imam Osama Bahloul.

"You can go to church in Egypt, a church in Syria. Now all this, the church -- we have it in the Middle East," said Bahloul.

Reza Aslan, a writer for The Daily Beast, also objected to Graham's claim.

"I think somebody needs to remind Franklin Graham that we don't judge our values in the United States by comparing them to what the Saudis do," said Aslan. "This is an appalling and laughable argument."

Bahloul and Franklin were also at odds over whether violence towards women was allowed under Sharia law.

"I have great difficulty with the -- with the religion, especially with Sharia law and what it does for women -- toward women, toward non-believers, the violence that is given in -- under Sharia law," said Graham.

"For you to say that Islam is asking Muslims to beat a woman, this is absolutely not right," replied Bahloul.

"I think to -- to take your daughter, because you think that -- and the religion gives you the authority -- Sharia gives you the authority for honor killing," said Graham.

"It does not," interrupted Bahloul.

Peter Gadiel, whose son died on 9/11, spoke up. "Your people justify it from the Koran," he said.

"We have some people, Christians, Muslims, Jewish and other, who misuse the holy books. It's understandable. I -- I do not deny this. But I'm saying ... the extreme majority of the Muslims, they have a proper understanding about this religion," explained Bahloul.

Honor killings are not exclusively the domain of Muslim nations. Precise statistics about the incidence of honor killings aren't available, but according to Diana Nammi of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organization, about two-thirds of them are carried out in Muslim communities. The practice can also be found in Hindu, Sikh and even eastern European cultures.

As ABC's Christian Amanpour noted during the debate, Graham, who is the son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, has repeatedly called Islam an "evil and wicked" religion.

This video is from ABC's This Week, broadcast Oct. 3, 2010.