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11/17/02 - BUSH ON ANTI-MUSLIM STATEMENTS - 2002-11-18

Since the attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001, President George W. Bush has made it clear that the U.S.-led coalition is waging a global war on terrorism, not Islam. The overwhelming majority of Americans share his perspective. And American Muslims, like other religious minorities, continue to be treated with tolerance and respect. Unfortunately, several evangelical Christian leaders have recently made disparaging remarks about Islam.

As President George W. Bush said, “some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans.” But the right to speak freely -- like the right to worship freely -- is enshrined in and protected by the United States Constitution. This means that Americans have the right to express opinions of all kinds, even those that a majority of their countrymen find ill-informed or abhorrent.

The important point, as Mr. Bush said, is that the war against terrorism is “a war against individuals whose hearts are full of hate.” It is not a war against Islam or any religion. Indeed, the campaign to eradicate Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network is directed at a group that would distort Islam’s meaning and pervert its ends. There are, as President Bush said, “millions of peaceful, loving Muslim Americans,” and a vast majority of Americans respect Muslims and their faith.