Both journalists and historians have rated the address that President George W. Bush delivered to Congress and the Nation on Thursday, September 21, 2001 concerning the 9/11 terrorist attacks as one of his best. It was an outstanding speech, delivered with sincere emotion and conviction.
In that speech he defined the terrorists who attacked our nation as radical extremists, as “a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.”
He directly spoke to Muslims throughout the world saying:
We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.He punctuated the speech with calls for religious tolerance:
The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.Today, as we, once again, mark the anniversary of 9/11/2001, remembering the victims of that tragic day, renewed signs of fear, hatred, enmity, and hostility towards American Muslims are being expressed in words and deeds throughout our nation.
We're in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.
In New York City, a cab driver was slashed and stabbed with a knife after a passenger asked if he were Muslim.
In Queens, another man, apparently intoxicated, stormed into a mosque, shouting anti-Muslim slurs and then began urinating on prayer rugs.
In Jacksonville, Florida, a pipe bomb exploded in an Islamic center occupied by 60 worshippers.
And yes, right here in Tennessee, in the city of Murfreesboro, after months of xenophobic and hateful protests by hundreds of local Christian fundamentalist, an arsonist poured flammable liquid on four pieces of construction equipment, successfully torching a large earthmover at the relocation site of a planned Islamic center and mosque.
The Murfreesboro Islamic Center, which has existed for nearly 30 years, became political fodder in the local Congressional race, with one Republican candidate accusing the center of fostering terrorism, suggesting that it has links to the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
As we all know by now, these crimes of hate and bigotry, along with others, have come in the midst of an ugly and volatile debate over whether an Islamic community center and place of worship should be built near the World Trade Center site. Sadly and regrettably, reasoned discourse and dialogue has been drowned out by incendiary accusations, portraying all Muslims as terrorists, creating a dangerous situation for millions of our fellow Muslim Americans here in the United States, as well as for all U.S. troops overseas.
Though many share the blame for what we have witnessed, the press, perhaps, even more than any of us, have contributed to the vitriol. The power vested in the media can be use for good or evil. Too many times the press has allowed what is in fact untrue to be seen and recognized as just "one side of a great debate" or considered as "an acceptable point of view."
Case in point, Thursday the leader of a small insignificant fundamentalist Christian cult who had announced plans to stage an "international Day of Quran Burning” in Gainesville, Florida, held a press conference. As it had done for weeks, the nation’s press was there, providing him a voice box to the world. And he took good advantage of their generosity, telling us all that he had decided to call off his 9/11 Quran burning because HE had successfully brokered a deal with the people behind the Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan. He claimed he had been promised that the facility would be moved from the site of the World Trade Center.
Of course, not a word of this was true, but there the press was, once again, allowing this throwback to the Dark Ages to deceive, blackmail and intimidate us all. And yes, as General David Petraeus pointed out, put the lives of our service men and women in extreme danger.
And then, yesterday during the President’s press conference, a member of the national media, Jake Tapper from ABC News, had the unmitigated gall to ask President Obama the following question:
Mr. President, were you concerned at all when you -- when the administration had Secretary of Defense Gates call this pastor in Florida that you were elevating somebody who is clearly from the fringe?Our President’s clear and politically courageous response deserves repeating:
With respect to the individual down in Florida, let me just say -- let me repeat what I said a couple of days ago. The idea that we would burn the sacred texts of someone else’s religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It’s contrary to what this country -- this nation was founded on. And my hope is, is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it.Though an overwhelmingly majority of Americans agree (64-28 percent) that there is a constitutional right for the Islamic Community Center to be built near to “Ground Zero”, a wide margin (63-27 percent) believe that it should not be built. Within that margin a small but extremely vocal and influential minority including — Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck — actually contend that the Obama Administration should prevent the Islamic Center from being built, some comparing Islam to Nazi Germany and vilifying Muslim Americans for exercising their constitutional rights in such vitriolic terms as to create an atmosphere where violence is all but inevitable.
But I’m also Commander-in-Chief, and we are seeing today riots in Kabul, riots in Afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform. And so we’ve got an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our young men and women in harm’s way. And it’s also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al Qaeda.
And although this may be one individual in Florida, part of my concern is to make sure that we don’t start having a whole bunch of folks all across the country think this is the way to get attention. This is a way of endangering our troops -- our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives who are sacrificing for us to keep us safe. And you don’t play games with that.
So I hardly think we’re the ones who elevated this story. But it is, in the age of the Internet, something that can cause us profound damage around the world, and so we’ve got to take it seriously.
It makes me want to cry – cry for our nation, but most of all, cry for the thousands of Muslim Americans who have volunteered and who continue to fight in our armed struggle against terrorism and for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim American children trying to comprehend why their religion is being condemned and their patriotism questioned by their fellow Americans. How could they not be experiencing an increasing sense of isolation and fear? How could they not be wondering whether their classmates are turning against them? How could they not be worrying whether they and their families will be safe in their own homes and communities?
Throughout all this volatile rhetoric and hateful acts for the most part the Republican and conservative leadership of this nation has either added fuel to the fire or sat silent, including both of Tennessee’s United State senators – Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander.
As an American, I am ashamed of what I have witness from too many of my fellow citizens and my government representatives.