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10/30/03 - BUSH MEETS WITH MUSLIM CLERICS - 2003-11-05

During his recent visit to Indonesia, President George W. Bush met with leading moderate Muslim clerics. The meeting took place on the resort island of Bali, where, one year ago, Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists linked to the al-Qaida network blew up two nightclubs packed with foreign tourists. Over two-hundred people were killed in that terrorist attack.

President Bush met with the clerics to correct misconceptions about U.S. policies. These misconceptions include the belief of some people that the U.S. opposes the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In fact, said, Mr. Bush, the United States supports peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian people:

“I informed them [the Muslim clerics] I was the first President ever to have advocated a Palestinian state. I did so at the United Nations. I also informed them that, in order for a Palestinian state to go forward, there must be a focused, concerted effort to destroy the terrorist networks that are trying to prevent a Palestinian state from emerging, which requires good, strong, capable leadership.”

The clerics also asked President Bush if Americans are hostile to the Muslim faith. Far from it, said Mr. Bush. In fact, Islam is the faith of a growing number of Americans. Mr. Bush said that Islamic extremists have failed in their attempt to hijack a great religion:

"Americans hold a deep respect for the Islamic faith. We know that Islam is fully compatible with liberty and tolerance and progress. Terrorists who claim Islam as their inspiration defile one of the world's great faiths. Murder has no place in any religious tradition.”

As President Bush said, "We see in Islam a religion that traces its origins back to God's call on Abraham. We share [Islam’s] belief in God's justice, and its 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."