Six days after the 9/11 attack on the United States, President George W. Bush went to the Islamic Center of Washington to publicly embrace Islam and, especially, American Muslims. He led Americans away from any idea of blaming Islam for the horror of 9/11. He repeated that theme over and over, making it a part of his second inaugural address, and returning to the Islamic Center for its rededication in 2007.
Bush’s healing message stands sadly in contrast to the ugly anti-Muslim rhetoric we hear lately from so many prominent Republicans, notably Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Peter King, and Frank Gaffney. To their credit Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have not joined in, but neither have they been very vocal in rejection of Islamophobia.
Ethics Bob never thought he’d be missing George Bush’s leadership, but on this issue he surely does. Bush’s statements are worth reading:
September 17, 2001, at the Islamic Center of Washington (complete remarks):
“Thank you all very much for your hospitality. We’ve just had a—wide-ranging discussions on the matter at hand. Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans, our Muslim friends and citizens, taxpaying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.
“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.
“The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran itself: “In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.”
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.
“When we think of Islam, we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world—billions of people find comfort and solace and peace—and that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race—out of every race.
“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.
“Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must not be intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.
“I’ve been told that some fear to leave; some don’t want to go shopping for their families; some don’t want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they’re afraid they’ll be intimidated. That should not and that will not stand in America.
“Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America. They represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.
“This is a great country. It’s a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth. And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do. They’re outraged; they’re sad. They love America just as much as I do.
“I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by. And may God bless us all. Thank you.”
From his second inaugural address, on Jan. 20, 2005:
“In America’s ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character—on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before—ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
From remarks on June 27, 2007, at the rededication of the Islamic Center of Washington:
”We come to express our appreciation for a faith that has enriched civilization for centuries. We come in celebration of America’s diversity of faith and our unity as free people. And we hold in our hearts the ancient wisdom of the great Muslim poet Rumi: ‘The lamps are different, but the light is the same.’ ”
Tags: 9/11 attack, American Muslims, anti-Muslim rhetoric, diversity, Eric Cantor, ethics, Frank Gaffney, George W Bush, Herman Cain, Islam, Islamic Center of Washington, Islamophobia. leadership, Koran, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Peter King, Republicans, Rick Perry, Rumi, Sermon on the Mount, Sinai, terrorists second inaugural address