Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bush on Islam

In the days following the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush gave a number of important speeches. His words would set the tone for America's response to terrorists. In particular, he gave focus to a view of Islam as a world religion:

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.

President Bush's words shocked many. Not only Americans, but all around the world, people had associated Islam with violence and terror. Bush was challenging people to acknowledge the peaceful face of Islam, and to acknowledge the existence of peaceful and moderate Muslims.

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 the weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush went on to say that

the terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.

These statements by the President constitute an analysis of a religious faith, and, like any analysis, must ultimately be subject to an objective judgment which will show it to be true or false. Is President Bush correct in saying that Islam

teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace.

or when he says that

All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It's a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It's faith based upon love, not hate.

and continuing to generalize that Islam is a religion of peace?

If President Bush is correct, then it would mean that not only are there moderate and peaceful Muslims in the United States, which we already know, but that there might be moderate and peaceful Muslims in other nations - and there are. But are there enough of them to make a significant political difference? Are there enough of them to throw off the harsh dictatorships which have oppressed nations in the Middle East for the last one thousand years? This question takes the form, in the year 2011, of the so-called 'Arab Spring' - the hint that individual freedom might overthrow the orthodox Islam of the region: that personal liberty might undermine the rigid control imposed by those Muslims who adhere to the teachings of the Qur'an.

Could it be that nominal Muslims will generate a new wave of freedom and liberty in the Middle East? We must watch and wait to learn the answer.