Islam is Peace: Let’s Remember George W. Bush’s Words After 9/11

In the first week of its new administration, the Trump White House signed an executive order barring Syrian refugees indefinitely, slashing refugee resettlement, and effectively targeting immigrants from several Muslim-majority nations.

The policy change, which marks a severe departure from what other presidents have ordered, is evidently predicated on the dangers posed by “radical Islam.” Standing in contradiction to the advice of national security experts and military brass, it’s rooted in the populist fear-mongering that prevailed during the 2016 election season. Such hostility is taking its own toll domestically.

When a small group of radicals—who hailed from nations strangely absent from the White House’s new order—turned the world upside down by hijacking four passenger airliners and killing nearly 3,000 Americans, President George W. Bush had a message for the Muslim world.

It stands in stark relief to how the threat of terrorism is handled today.

“The face of terrorism 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 . . .and that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race,” then-President Bush told a shell-shocked and grieving America.

Even then, in our darkest hour, when many Americans may have found some small comfort in lashing out against the “other,” the Commander-in-Chief did not stoke a fire of anger. Nor did he propose building barriers among us. Rather, in the way an old Texas rancher might teach his own children, he asked us to simply respect one another.

“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.”

President Bush, knowing that millions of Muslims called America their home, refused to trade America’s most cherished ideals for political capital. With the advent of the White House’s new order, one might think that these ideals can be conveniently set aside if they become too hard to live up to, or too good a bargain in trade for “increasing national security.”

Being vigilant against an ever-changing threat of terrorism is something that will most likely bring new and difficult challenges by the day. But how we might react—with poise, compassion, and dignity in the face of such threats—well, we have a good example.


Published on February 2, 2017


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