On eve of 9/11 anniversary, Obama defends Bush strategy of fighting terror, not Islam

At his Friday press conference, President Obama made an impassioned defense of a key Bush strategy not to blame Islam for the 9/11 attacks. Many Americans have lost sight of that, as seen in the threat to burn the Quran at a church and the backlash to a Muslim mosque near ground zero.

People in favor of the 'Park 51' Islamic cultural center picket outside the site of the future centre during Friday prayer. A heated debate has broken out in New York City over the proposed construction of a 13-story Islamic Cultural Center - named 'Park 51' - two blocks north of 'ground zero' - the former site of the World Trade Center twin towers that were destroyed by a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

For the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Obama went out of his way to praise George W. Bush for making a key decision just after the attacks: Not to blame Islam itself for the actions of Al Qaeda.

Mr. Obama needed to remind Americans – half of whom see Islam unfavorably – of that point, given the threat by Pastor Terry Jones of a Florida Christian church to burn the Quran and the public backlash against the building of a mosque near ground zero.

He said the US is not fighting Islam but "terrorists and murderers who had perverted" the religion.

"I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion: That we are not going to be divided by religion, we're not going to be divided by ethnicity," the president said in Friday's televised press conference at the White House. "We have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other."

He was particularly impassioned about the fact that many Muslim Americans are serving as soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. "They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our co-workers," Obama said. "And, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?"

"This country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights; one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely," Obama said. "What that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site."

The Monitor made similar points in a recent editorial (click here).

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