Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Obama borrows from Bush in first visit to U.S. mosque

Olivier Knox,; see also.

Image from article, with caption: President Obama tours the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Seven years ago, Obama’s key audience was Muslims around the world, a constituency he described as vital to allied efforts to stamp out the kind of violent extremism that plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Back then, the centerpiece of his outreach was a June 2009 speech at Cairo University in which he pleaded for “a new beginning,” acknowledged “civilization’s debt to Islam” and highlighted the contributions of American Muslims.
“They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building and lit the Olympic Torch,” he said.
Obama is certain to echo that part of his Cairo message on Wednesday as he visits the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque, holds a round  table with key community figures and makes remarks.
Obama has visited mosques in Cairo and Jakarta as president, but never before one on U.S. soil. He has delivered impassioned pleas for religious acceptance before, as recently as his appearance at the House Democrats’ annual retreat and his State of the Union address, and years earlier when he defended plans to build a mosque near ground zero in New York City. He has continued the practice of holding annual dinners at the White House to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Obama officials cite an unlikely model for this latest outreach: George W. Bush. They note with approval Bush’s visit to the Islamic Center of Washington just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes.
Bush had declared a “war on terrorism” not quite 12 hours after the attacks. But he hurried to the Islamic Center of Washington, a mosque and cultural center, less than a week later, quoted the Quran, and warned that Americans unleashing their anger on fellow Americans who follow Islam “represent the worst of humankind.”
“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,” he said.
Bush worked enormously hard for eight years to tamp down anti-Islam sentiment at home, though policies like the war in Iraq undercut his outreach to Muslims around the world. Aides frequently observed in private that “public diplomacy” messaging efforts to win over Middle Eastern audiences couldn’t compete with the reality of America policies that angered Muslims.
And Bush tried to shape his language to avoid offending followers of Islam overseas. He shied from describing America’s enemies as “Islamic terrorists,” though for a brief time in 2006 he called them “Islamic radicals,” only to drop the expression after Saudi Arabia objected. Early on he dubbed the war on terrorism a “crusade,” a bland term in the West that remains deeply controversial for many Middle Eastern Muslims. Angry with himself over the unnecessary provocation, Bush in June 2004 trimmed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous D-Day message to leave out a reference to “the great crusade” of defeating Nazi Germany.
Some former Obama aides say this president faces some of the same challenges overseas — that policies like his drone war outweigh earnest diplomatic entreaties for popular support. But many praise Bush’s efforts.
“That was one of the real contributions, despite all the other problems, that George W. Bush made after 9/11, when he basically said, after going to a mosque in Washington, ‘We are not at war with Islam or Muslims,’”former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said at a Democratic debate in November. ...

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