All of a sudden, George W. Bush is being held up as a role model for Republicans by Democrats. What did Bush do to deserve this? He formulated the “Islam is peace” slogan as a way to describe Islam in the wake of?September 11.
The Democratic National Committee has cut an ad in which GOP hopefuls talk about “radical Islam,” before?a sober George Bush comes on to say that “Islam is peace” and that we are “not at war with Islam.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus might consider buying airtime for the DNC to show its new ad.
Because the ad is going to backfire.
Turns out, none of the GOP candidates featured on the DNC ad have said we are at war with Islam. All speak of “radical Islam” as our threat. People aren’t stupid. They can tell the difference between saying “Islam” and “radical Islam,” and the GOP candidates know that they are more aligned with the voters on this issue than the Democrats. (According to a recent Rasmussen survey, sixty-percent of voters agree that the United States is at war with radical Islamic terrorism.)
But what about that “religion of peace” formula? We have absolutely no idea (as far as I know) what percentage of the world’s Muslims are peace-loving and perhaps yearn to belong to modern, pluralistic societies and what percentage want to murder us in the name of Allah.
I submit that one of the reasons we don’t know this is because so many American leaders insist that we adopt the “religion of peace” mantra as a way to talk about Islam. We have long been puzzled as to why more Muslims living in secular, Western societies won’t step forward after a terrorist attack by radical Muslims, and say “This doesn’t represent me.”
But we really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, our leaders are already saying it for them.??(If Islam is a “religion of peace,” and these horrific attacks are portrayed aberrations in the public dialogue, why should a peace-loving Muslim take a risk to set the record straight?)
President Obama and the Democrats apparently believe that, if we utter the words “radical Islam,” we will unify the Muslim world against us. If that is all it takes, then really, they are already against us.??But it seems possible that, if we dropped the religion of peace happy talk, then Muslims who truly do want peace and feel their religious tradition is being captured by radicals might feel more called upon to state emphatically that they are not with the jihadis.
George Bush’s “religion of peace” shtick always seemed to me the product of his genteel upbringing. (Why — good heavens — we gentlemen from Andover and Yale don’t make a fuss about a fellow’s religion. That would be rude. So let’s just call Islam a religion of peace.)
But if a recent column by Caroline Glick, the respected?Jerusalem Post?writer, is right, the formulation was considerably more calculating. According to Glick, Michael Gerson, who wrote George Bush’s speeches in the wake of?September 11 and is now a syndicated columnist, participated in a November 2014 debate about Islam in which he laid out why the Bush administration responded as it did.
According to Glick, at the panel?”Gerson explained that Bush’s decision to ignore the nature of the enemy emanated from a strategic calculation.”
This is not quite as cynical as Glick perhaps makes it sound. She continued, “Bush believed that radical Islam was but a marginal force in the Muslim world. By embracing Islam as a whole, and insisting that the terrorists from al Qaeda and other groups did not reflect the authentic nature of Islam, Bush hoped to draw the non-radical Muslims to America’s side against the jihadists.”
Sadly this doesn’t appear to have worked out as hoped.??Non-radical Muslims have been too often silent as radical Muslims have killed or beheaded innocents shouting praise of Allah. Perhaps it is because we have made it too easy for non-radical Muslims not to take a stand.
Glick writes, “On the battlefield, by failing to acknowledge, let alone discredit the enemy’s world view, Bush made it all but impossible for Muslims who oppose radical Islam to stand up against it. After all, if the Americans didn’t think it was a problem, why would they?”
Refusing to admit the allure of radical Islam, Glick contends, the United States didn’t invest sufficient resources in helping genuinely moderate Iraqi Muslims win the 2005 elections in Iraq, while Iran spent heavily to insure election results to prevent Iraq from becoming the pluralistic democracy for which we hoped.
Gerson, to be fair, likely embraced the notion that Islam is a largely peace-loving religion, with a fringe element of radicals, because he believed it. In a column in?September of this year he wrote, “There are theological struggles within Islam of great public consequence. And there is a small but dangerous minority of Muslims who believe that Islam is a religion of war.”
I can’t believe many of us in the West know enough about Islam to talk knowledgeably about its theological struggles. Honestly, we likely don’t know enough to know what is fringe Islam and what is mainstream Islam. We are abysmally ignorant of Islam. But this isn’t the question that we need the Muslim community to answer.??Our question is simply this: are you with us or do you want to destroy us?
If we are honest about radical Islam, Muslims who embrace the pluralistic West — who enjoy the benefits of our society, and don’t want to live under a medieval theocracy — might be more likely to come forward as allies. At least, it’s worth a try.
Give peace-loving Muslims a chance.
Charlotte Hays is director of cultural programs at the Independent Women’s Forum.