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Bush and Islam: Words versus Deeds

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The wide gap between U.S. President George W. Bush's words and deeds vis-à-vis Islam and Muslims doomed to failure his speech at the United nations on September 19, which could neither appease Muslims nor pacify the ever growing Islamophobia.

Hardly a week had passed since his speech than Winston Churchill - author, journalist, former Member of Parliament and grandson of the former British prime minister - was speaking at an American university to condemn "Radical Islam" as posing to Western civilization a threat similar to that of the Nazis and the Soviets. (1)

President Bush has denied that the West is engaged in a war against Islam as a "false propaganda," but confirmed his country's determination to carry on with its "war on terror" and its "great ideological struggle" at the start of the 21st century exclusively against Muslims and Muslim countries.

"My country desires peace," Bush told world leaders at the opening of the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, adding: "Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false... We respect Islam." (2)

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Bush is also on record as saying that "Islam is a religion of peace" and praising Islam's "commitment to religious freedom," statements that were criticized by the popular U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson.

These rare expressions of respect to Islam would have been welcomed by Muslims were they not swept to utter oblivion in the collective memory of the American public by his incessantly flowing anti-Muslim terminology: Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, Islamic extremism and extremists, Islamic or Islamist terrorism and terrorists, radical Islamists or Islamist and Islamic radicals, etc.

His September 19 speech was almost exclusively confined to the Middle East, an overwhelmingly Muslim region. The absence of even a reference to the North Korean pillar of his so-called "axis of evil" was revealing enough that his WWIII (3) "on terror" has shrunk to focus exclusively on the Muslim Middle East.

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"At the start of the 21st century, it is clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace," he said, defining the battle lines of his WWIII.

Four days earlier he identified those extremists as being "Islamic," who "want to impose" their "ideology throughout the broader Middle East." Earlier, on August 10, CNN quoted Bush as saying that, "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

He also defined a modern Anglo-Saxon white man's mission in the 21st century as "our obligation to defend civilization and liberty, to support the forces of freedom and moderation throughout the Middle East." (4)

How can mainstream Muslims perceive Bush or the United States as respecting Islam when their overwhelming propaganda machine is producing this torrential flow of anti-Muslim terminology and their overpowering war machine is disintegrating Muslim societies to pre-state age, allegedly to defend the freedom of American people. How could a leader secure his people's freedom when he deprives other peoples of their freedoms!

Jim Lobe is a respected reporter of the Asia Times; in a recent article I misquoted him as attributing to Bush's co-ideologist, Nweit Gingrich, the term "WWIII on Islam." Lobe rightly felt highly indignant that his credibility was compromised by my misquotation. Gingrich did not literary say it by the word, but he and Bush said it in each and every other word.

Bush's "strategies are not wrong, but they are failing," in part because "they do not define the scale of the emerging World War III, between the West and the forces of Islam," Gingrich said. (5)

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Bush's attempt to verbally separate between Islam and Muslims in his propaganda to justify his pre-emptive American militaristic and hegemonic foreign policy is hopeless and doomed to failure.

Five years after U.S. President George W. Bush launched his global war on terrorism, this war has boiled down to a war on Islam: One cannot target all those Muslims, their countries and their Islamic syllabus without targeting their religion.

His global war on terrorism targets "Islamic terrorism" almost exclusively. "Till recently, of the 36 organisations on the U.S. State Department's banned list, 24 were Muslim. The rest were Basque and Irish separatists and leftist groups. There were no Christian, Buddhist or Hindu groups. The State Department also lists 26 countries whose nationals represent an 'elevated security risk' to the U.S. Barring North Korea, all are Muslim-majority countries." (6)

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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