Push to convert Muslims

Melbourne, Australia - US preacher Franklin Graham, who described Islam as a wicked religion, has invited Muslims to his Melbourne convention.

The evangelist is speaking at the Festival Victoria faith meeting this weekend, and organisers are hoping 100,000 people will attend the Telstra Dome event.

The Rev Graham is the son of preacher Billy Graham, who attracted 130,000 people to his 1959 crusade at the MCG.

The Christian evangelist, 52, has previously said Islam was a wicked and violent religion.

But yesterday he said Muslims, as well as Buddhists, Hindus and non-believers, were welcome at the festival.

"Much of my evangelical work has been in Muslim countries, and I love the Muslim people, and I want those people to know God the way I know God," Mr Graham said.

"I want them to realise that God sent his son, and his name is Jesus Christ."

Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee executive director Amir Butler said Melbourne's Muslims were unlikely to attend.

"I'm sure it's a sincere invitation but (Mr Graham) has been quite open about his intentions that he wants to convert Muslims rather than appreciate our faith."

Festival Victoria is on this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Victorian churches have spent $1.8 million on the free event.

Australian Idol Guy Sebastian and sports stars including former footballer Shaun Hart and golfer Aaron Baddeley will attend and make statements about their faith.

Mr Graham said the event would probably not exceed his father's crowds.

"It is difficult -- in the 50s in Australia, I think maybe 44 per cent of people went to church and now it's under 10 per cent," he said.

But Mr Graham said Australians appreciated his gospel message.

"People in Australia, I find, are quite interested in God, but they have been turned off by organisations or by scandals or whatever," he said.

His Australian trip has been funded by US investors in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.