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President Bush's Statement On Islam And The Times Of India's Editorial, " Scapegoats And Victims"

Today, in our final installment of a full week's worth of statements and reaction to the WTC and Pentagon attacks, we provide yesterday's statement from President Bush regarding Islam and attacks on Muslims in America. We follow that with an editorial from The Times Of India, "Scapegoats And Victims"

"Islam is Peace" Says President
Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.

3:12 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all very much for your hospitality.  We've just had a -- wide-ranging discussions on the matter at hand.  Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday's attacks.  And so were Muslims all across the world.  Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.

 These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.  And it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that.

The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself:  In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil.  For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.

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.

When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace.  And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.

America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads.  And they need to be treated with respect.  In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.

 Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes.  Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America.  That's not the America I know.  That's not the America I value.

 I've been told that some fear to leave; some don't want to go shopping for their families; some don't want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they're afraid they'll be intimidated. That should not and that will not stand in America.

Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.

This is a great country.  It's a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.  And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do.  They're outraged, they're sad.  They love America just as much as I do.

I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by.  And may God bless us all.

                           END                   3:19 P.M. EDT

Scapegoats & Victims
The Times Of India
September 18, 2001

The first `victims' of America's self-avowed global war against terrorism have fallen. Not in the rugged, lawless wilderness of Talibanised Afghanistan, but in the eminently civilised ambience of mainland America itself. On Saturday night, a 52-year-old Sikh businessman was shot dead in Arizona by assailants who mistook him for an Arab. In a separate incident, a middle-aged Pakistani was killed in his grocery store in Texas for the same reason. Across the US, scores of other Asian citizens have had to face the vengeful wrath of outraged Americans overwhelmed by the horrific terror attacks last Tuesday which, apart from killing thousands, wounded the self-esteem of the world's mightiest nation. As in the case of the unfortunate two who had to pay with their lives, the `crime' of the targeted Asians was that they shared a likeness in appearance to the most recognised face of terrorism in the American consciousness: Osama bin Laden. It would be easy to attribute these hate crimes to the mindless prejudice of a handful who could not distinguish the perpetrators of terror from innocent law-abiding citizens. The truth, unfortunately, is more complicated. For one, the intolerance that is currently sweeping America cannot be seen in isolation from the relentless moral hysteria and war-mongering which has ruled the airwaves since the outbreak of Black Tuesday. As always, the representations in the media are merely a symptom of a larger malaise. From the White House down, the American leadership has reacted to the terrible events in a language which is liable to rouse the worst passions.

From the Manichean rhetoric of good and evil to blanket invocations of `Islamic terrorism' to an ostensible `clash of civilisations', official America has actively stoked the fires of popular prejudice in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist strikes. While this may have won the leadership the gratitude of a people looking for easy answers and identifiable scapegoats, it has also spawned a new moral calculus in which the minorities, particularly the Muslims, have become `legitimate' targets for the expression of one's patriotic sentiments. The dangers of demonising a whole community, even assuming that there exists a monolithic Islamic community, for the crimes of its fanatical fringe are too frightful to contemplate. In this age of media saturation, it is perhaps inevitable that an average American will know little of her own past, let alone larger western history, but the leadership must be only too aware of the horrors that are unleashed when a nation is encouraged to look upon its minorities with suspicion. It is time President Bush displayed the same resolve in combating the anti-Muslim feelings amongst his people that he has so far proclaimed in America's imminent fight against global terrorism. Beyond the immediate situation, however, there is a larger lesson in the American situation for the entire democratic world. Namely, that modern mass democracies, for all their apparent virtues of tolerance and reasoned discourse, often fail to protect their minorities just when it is most required - in the face of catastrophic tragedies. The anti-Sikh pogrom in the aftermath of Mrs Gandhi's assassination or the anti-Muslim riots which followed the Babri Masjid demolition are simply more virulent expressions of that same tendency. It is, therefore, imperative that even as we condemn the anti-minority mood in America, we must strengthen our resolve to protect the rights of the minorities at home.

---from The Times Of India

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

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