2002 December 07 Saturday
Debate On American Right About Nature Of Islam

In a December 2, 2002 press conference Ari Fleischer defended Mr. Bush's official view of Islam as a benevolent peaceful religion:

Q The Washington post quotes Paul Weyrich as writing, "Islam is at war against us. The Bush administration's promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, just like Judaism or Christianity, it is neither." And Ken Adelman said, calling Islam a peaceful religion is an increasingly hard argument to make. Does the President believe that Weyrich and Adelman and others are wicked or ignorant or what?

MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, the President is proud to stand up for America's longstanding traditions of tolerance and openness and to welcome people who practice the religion of Islam in the United States and around the world. The President knows that Islam is a religion of peace. And like many religions, and like many beliefs, there can be individuals within a certain religion who distort its meaning and divert from the peaceful intentions of a religion, having nothing to do with the religion. They themselves are the ones who violate and twist a religion, and Islam is a religion of peace.

A few days later on Dec 5, 2002 President Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington DC to join the celebration of the end of the month of Ramadan and repeated his publically stated view of Islam as a great benefit for humanity.

"Islam affirms God's justice and insists on man's moral responsibility," said the president, flanked by a half-dozen imams. "Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind."

Here is the full text of Bush's Eid al-Fitr message to Muslims:

*EUR407 12/05/2002

Text: Bush Praises Islam for Inspiring Honesty, Integrity, and Morality
(Issues message to U.S. and world Muslim community on Eid al-Fitr) (240)

Following is the text of President Bush's message to Muslims on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr:

(begin text)

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 5, 2002

PRESIDENTIAL MESSAGE: EID AL-FITR
December 2002

I send greetings to Muslims in the United States and around the world as you celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast.

At the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, worship, and reflection, Eid celebrates the renewal of faith, hope, and compassion. During this time of great rejoicing, Muslims give thanks for the blessings they have been granted, and demonstrate their commitment to the Qur'an's teachings by helping those in need. These acts of kindness and generosity strengthen communities worldwide, and as we observe this holiday season, I encourage Americans of all faiths to join in building a culture of service that demonstrates the true character of our Nation.

America treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam, which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality. This year, may Eid also be a time in which we recognize the values of progress, pluralism, and acceptance that bind us together as a Nation and a global community. By working together to advance mutual understanding, we point the way to a brighter future for all.

Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a joyous Eid, and for health, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year.

Here are the comments by Bush on November 7 2002 at the White House Iftaar Dinner.

President Bush Speaks at White House Iftaar Dinner

Says Muslim values shared by other faiths in U.S.

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT IFTAAR DINNER
State Dining Room

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Thank you all for coming. I'm honored to welcome such a distinguished group of ambassadors and American citizens to the White House to help usher in the holy month of Ramadan.

Islam is a religion that brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people around the world. It has made brothers and sisters of every race. It has given birth to a rich culture of learning and literature and science. Tonight we honor the traditions of a great faith by hosting this Iftaar at the White House.

I'm honored that our great Secretary of State is with us today. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. I appreciate Your Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, for coming. I want to thank members of my administration who are here -- in particular, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, who's the Director of the National Institute of Health. I want to thank all the ambassadors who are here -- it's good to see you all again. And the other representatives from the Organization of Islamic Conference. I appreciate so very much my fellow Americans here, many from the Muslim community.

Ramadan is a special time of prayer and fasting, contemplation of God's greatness, and service to those in need. According to Muslim teachings, this season commemorates the revelation of God's word in the holy Koran to the prophet Muhammad. Today this word inspires faithful Muslims to lead lives of honesty and integrity and compassion.

In hosting tonight's Iftaar, I send a message to all the nations represented by their ambassadors here tonight: America treasures your friendship. America honors your faith.

We see in Islam a religion that traces its origins back to God's call on Abraham. We share your belief in God's justice, and your insistence on man's moral responsibility. We thank the many Muslim nations who stand with us against terror. Nations that are often victims of terror, themselves.

Tonight's Iftaar also sends a message to all Americans: our nation is waging a war on a radical network of terrorists, not on a religion and not on a civilization. If we wage this war to defend our principles, we must live up to those principles, ourselves. And one of the deepest commitments of America is tolerance. No one should be treated unkindly because of the color of their skin or the content of their creed. No one should be unfairly judged by appearance or ethnic background, or religious faith. We must uphold these values of progress and pluralism and tolerance.

George Washington said that America gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. This was our policy at our nation's founding; this is our policy today. America rejects all forms of religious intolerance. America grieves with all the victims of religious bigotry. And America opposes all who commit evil in God's name.

Ramadan and the upcoming holiday seasons are a good time to remember the ties of friendship and respect that bind us together. Learning from each other we can build bridges of mutual trust and understanding. Working together we can create a better future for people of all faiths.

I thank you for coming to the White House this evening. I wish you all a blessed Ramadan. God bless.

I'm going out on a limb here but I bet that no Muslim potentate invites Western diplomats to his place for a Christmas Dinner where he celebrates the virtues of Christianity. My guess is that doesn't happen in the Middle East.

By contrast, Conservative Paul Weyrich thinks Islam is so bad that the US Post Office shouldn't honor it with a stamp.

The story is this: We are not at war with a gang of terrorists. Al Qaeda is not the Jesse James gang with Arabic surnames. It is not even that we are at war with Islam. Rather, Islam is at war against us.

The sooner Americans recognize this fact then the safer we will be as a nation.

I have had much good to say about President Bush in recent months. But one thing that concerned me before September 11th and concerns me even more now is his administration's constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance just like Judaism or Christianity.

It is neither. That is why my colleague, Bill Lind, and I decided to urge the leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives to have the stamp be withdrawn from circulation, overprinted with the image of the World Trade Towers, and then reissued. The effort went nowhere, but the case for doing so remains clear in my mind because symbols matter.

Joseph Farah of World Net Daily believes we are at war with Islam.

People are dying lots of them. In fact, more Christians are being persecuted today than ever before in the history of the world even under the Romans. Most of those attacks come from Islam.

What we need to understand is that these attacks are connected. They are coordinated. Islam is on the march, again. The only question is whether we see it, acknowledge the reality of it and figure out an adequate response before it's too late.

Pat Robertson says "But at the same time, at the core of this religion ... is jihad"

ROBERTSON: It's been what you call the religion. If you look at the Koran, which is the foundational doctrine, if you consider that Mohammed is the prophet of Allah, you look at what he said, what he instructed his followers to do and then what they did for 1,400 years of unrelenting warfare against Europe and the Christian world, then you begin to say, "Well, this is the way they are." It's not a question of interpretation. Look at history.

Pat Robertson further holds that its not Mr. Bush's place to say what is the nature of Islam.

"He is not elected as chief theologian," Mr. Robertson said.

The persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of Islamic conquests and rule for centuries. The Koran provides ample evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world. Conversions from Islam to any other faith are often punishable by death.

One example is the treatment of non-Muslims by the Islamic government of Sudan. In the past year, our hospital in southern Sudan was bombed seven times by the Islamic regime in Khartoum. These bombings pale in comparison with the two million Christians and animists killed, and thousands more enslaved, by the regime in recent years.

In most countries where Islamic law dominates there is practically no freedom of religion (not to mention freedom of speech or the press). In most Islamic countries, including so-called moderate Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, it is a crime to build a Christian church, Jewish synagogue, Hindu temple or any other non-Muslim house of worship. In contrast, there are about 3,000 mosques in the U.S., with new ones being built every week.

Muslims are free to worship Allah in the U.S., but Christians are not free to worship Jesus in most Muslim countries. There has not been a single church in Afghanistan since the exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah,

Franklin Graham thinks Saudi money is buying a lot of influence in the US.

"Our country is slowly being, very quietly, being Islamized by huge contributions from Saudi Arabia to our universities to pay for Islamic studies, to support Islamic causes in this country," Graham told the paper's editors. "I don't have a problem with that, but I can't go to Saudi Arabia and take even a Bible. I can't go to Saudi Arabia with a Bible. They will confiscate it."

A Temple University professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion expressed concern about the thrust of the comments.

"It's really the tone of Mr. Graham's remarks and his general kind of sweeping statements that are most disturbing," Professor Mahmoud Ayoub said Thursday.

I wonder whehther Professor Ayoub believes Christians should be able to go into Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries and work as missionaries for Christianity. My guess is that he doesn't.

Franklin Graham also thinks there is no religious freedom in Muslim countries.

From 40 years of traveling to the Middle East, and I have traveled to countries (including), Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan. I have seen when Muslims are in majority. There is no religious freedom. You cannot name one nation that has an Islamic majority where there is religious freedom.

I have seen the persecution. I have witnessed the persecution of people of different faiths by Islams. It is taught by them, it is in their Koran. They can't deny it.

I'd like to see Prince Bandar and Adel Al-Jubair explain on a US TV political talk show why the US should allow Saudi Muslim clerics come to the US to spread Wahhabi while US Christian clerics are not allowed entrance to Saudi Arabia to preach Christianity.

Dana Milbank has written a piece for the Washington Post that describes the debate on the Right about the nature of Islam:

Calling Islam a peaceful religion "is an increasingly hard argument to make," said Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan official who serves on the Bush Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. "The more you examine the religion, the more militaristic it seems. After all, its founder, Mohammed, was a warrior, not a peace advocate like Jesus."

Another member of the Pentagon advisory board, Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote an article on the Wall Street Journal editorial page arguing that the enemy of the United States enemy is not terrorism "but militant Islam." "The enemy has an ideology, and an hour spent surfing the Web will give the average citizen at least the kind of insights that he or she might have found during World Wars II and III by reading 'Mein Kampf' or the writings of Lenin, Stalin or Mao."

Cal Thomas argues we should demand that Muslims stand up to their own extremists because whether or not they respond by doing so we will learn their real intentions.

Pressuring "responsible" Muslim leaders to police their own house will help in two ways. If they do it, it will demonstrate there are true moderates who believe in pluralism and tolerance. If they don't, it will expose their real motives. Either way, Americans will benefit.

After saying "I guess I'm closer to the Islam-is-a-violent-religion party" Jonah Goldberg demands that Muslims stand up to fellow Muslims who are terrorists.

I will have a lot more sympathy for the complaints of Muslim activists once they put even a fraction of the energy they dedicate to portraying themselves as victims of bigoted America or Europe toward policing and condemning their own co-religionists. If they're afraid for their personal safety or even their lives not an unreasonable fear that's no excuse. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the rest may constitute hijackers in the cockpit of a peaceful religion, but they will define Islam if the folks in the main cabin don't fight the hijackers. That's what happened with Nazis in Germany, and that's what will happen with militant Islam if non-militant Islam continues to insist that its biggest enemies are the open and tolerant nations of the West that gave them the opportunity to live decent lives in freedom. If they persist in that complaint, nobody will be able to justly blame average Americans for scoffing at the suggestion that Islam means peace.

I think more commentators on the US political right should call on Muslims to denounce terrorism and to denounce the illiberal aspects of Muslim societies (e.g. lack of political and religious freedom and lack of tolerance for those of other beliefs). It seems unlikely that most Muslims really object to the illiberal aspects of Muslim culture and the demands will likely be met with hostility. However, if we make those demands the big benefit for the West will be that the Muslims will interpret our demands as a sign of our confidence that Western Civilization is worth defending.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 December 07 01:49 AM  Civilizations Clash Of


Comments
John Ray said at December 7, 2002 4:03 AM:

Surely it is clear that Bush is just saying what he thinks he has to say for diplomatic reasons. He wants to ENCOURAGE peaceful attitudes among Muslims, and Muslim governments in particular.

That Islam preaches death to infidels has of course long been known as the truth of the matter. Islam offers peace only to Muslims.

Bob said at December 7, 2002 2:09 PM:

Bush: "I send greetings to Muslims in the United States and around the world as you celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast."

Randall,

Aren't you asking a little too much to expect an Islamic potentate to publicly observe Christmas?

Instead, I suggest Muslim potentates invite a few of their Christian policy advisors, their Ambassadors to other countries who just happen to be Christian, Christian heads of their National Departments, the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Riyadh etc. over for a Mardi Gras soiree. I think that's a more appropriate comparison, don't you? For all you and I know, the House of Saud invites the entire cohort above almost daily to show their tolerance and admiration.


Bush: "America rejects all forms of religious intolerance."

The statement doesn't seem to apply to Islamic intolerance of other religions, does it? Well, Bush also cites honesty and integrity as virtues... hmmm.... If he spins any more, he just might barf. Hey! -- maybe, that's what happened to his dad in Japan.

I find little comfort from Muslims pointing to their slighly less severe persecution of Christians and Jews as evidence of their tolerance for my atheist religious beliefs. I have read the Qur'an, and I find it alarming.

While I am on a rant about Islamic dissembling, here is one with a Canadian slant: Jihad: Waging Peace and Justice

Elmasry claims in point #3 that "Jihad in Islam is not meant for domination...(2:190-191)" If one actually reads (2:190-195), one can see that while the Yusufali translation almost supports his contention, the Pickthal and Shakir translations paint a slightly different picture. The Shakir translation, in particular, provides almost no support for the contention at all:

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.

And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
(emphasis mine)

Even before that in point #2, Elmasry actually points to (2:193) to claim that Jihad is a war to establish "especially freedom of religion". That's the verse with "and religion should be only for Allah". Does that sound like tolerance?

In point #4, Elmasry points to (22:39-40) to support the statement that "One of the most important objectives of Jihad in Islam is to stand for those who are oppressed and/or forced out of their homes just because of their religion". He doesn't mention that the only qualifying religion seems to be Islam. Since the attack against the WTC and the Pentagon in a sense "evicted" those who survived, I would suggest that the US action in Afghanistan was perfectly justified Jihad according to Mohammedan rules of engagement. In fact, the coming emancipation of the people of Iraq also constitutes Jihad. Yet, I do not see Elmasry (or any other Muslim, for that matter) publicly voicing that plain and obvious conclusion. How many Imams publicly praise Bush for his just and moral struggles against oppression?

If one reads Surah 22 of the Qur'an a little further, the passages starting at (22:46) seem to define me as the enemy simply for my religious beliefs. The Qur'an leaves no room for even the thought that I can disbelieve in Allah and still do good in the world. Is that tolerance?


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