The politics of two presidents – George W. Bush and Barack Obama differed greatly. However, after notorious Paris attacks, Obama pay respects to Bush and his decision not to declare war on Islam. Bush managed to differentiate Islam from terrorism although terrorism is connected to this religion often. At the press conference after the Paris attacks, Obama declared: “I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam.”
Both of the presidents recognized that terrorism and Islam were not connected. However, both of them failed to explain to the Americans why a significant number of Muslims joined the Islamic State, which is predominantly made of people whose religion is Islam.
9/11 – Terrorism and Islam
To understand the relationship between Bush and Obama as well as their views of terrorism, we have to go back to the darkest hours of the American history – 9/11. The devastating attacks which happened on September 11, 2001, caused Bush to go to the Islamic Center of the capital city and call for tolerance. At the Islamic Center in Washington D.C. Bush said:
“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 face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” He added that Muslims contributed greatly to the society and reminded the nation that they are “doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms, and dads.” He also said that “they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”
After the notorious event and his visit to the Islamic Center, Bush met with the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Indonesia is the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world and Bush wanted to make sure his voice is heard. He told Megawati: “I’ve made it clear, Madam President, that the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.”
Although Bush kept trying to explain that terrorism and Islam are not connected whatsoever, he made a mistake by saying: “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” The word “crusade” drew a lot of attention, and many people started believing that Bush intended to go on a war against Islam. That was the word he never used again in his speeches regarding the war against terror.
Did and how things changed under Barack Obama?
Obama’s campaign was highly successful, and his selection to the highest seat in the country was a historical event and a major step forward for African-Americans in the country. In his campaign, Obama addressed the war against terrorism and just like his predecessor, he tried to show the difference between terrorism and Islam. In his campaign, he said: “In the first hundred days of my administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle. I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam.”
He had a vision similar to Bush’s, and in Cairo, after the Paris attacks he pointed out that the values of Islam are similar to the American values. He said: “Let there be no doubt. Islam is a part of America. Muslims have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights.” He added that America and Islam do not have to compete against each other and that they overlap. On several occasions, Obama spoke the same words as Bush, saying that “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.”
Both Bush and Obama fought to distinguish Islam from terrorism. Take a look at these two situations and tell us what you think. When he was in Cairo, Obama said: “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. The United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.” Let’s walk down the memory lane and recall the words said by Bush. He stated: “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.”
As you can see, the two presidents have the same views. Nothing has changed in Obama’s administration in terms of Islam and terrorism. And while Bush fought the hopeless and costly war in Iraq, Obama did the same in the states of North Africa. They were trying to differentiate Islam and terrorism and yet they fought against Muslim countries continuously.
“Hijack” and “Pervert”
The two presidents tried to explain that the terrorists were using Islam as a justification. They both conveyed the same meaning, but they used the different terms. Bush preferred to say that the terrorist who committed crimes in the name of Islam used to “hijack Islam” while Obama favored the syntagm “perversion of Islam.”
On several occasions, Bush said: “[Terrorists are] traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.” And one year later: “We respect the [Islamic] faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” While he was in Abu Dhabi, Bush warned: “Today your aspirations are threatened by violent extremists who murder the innocent in pursuit of power. These extremists have hijacked the noble religion of Islam, and seek to impose their totalitarian ideology on millions.”
On the other hand, Obama had the same answers. After winning the Nobel Prize and accepting it, he pointed out: “the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam.” A few years later he answered: “There is an element growing out of Muslim communities in certain parts of the world that have perverted the religion, have embraced a nihilistic, violent, almost medieval interpretation of Islam.”
However, there was a “significant difference between the two presidents. Obama never used terms such as “Islamic extremism” and “radical Islam” because he believed that terrorism and extremism would be connected to Islam. He avoided these terms, whereas Bush had no problems using them. On the other hand, he did state that such extremism should not be connected to Islam. At one point he acknowledged: “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam.”
Majority of Muslims are against this extremism, advocating peace. If this holy war is false indeed, why so many people join it? That was something neither Obama nor Bush could explain.
Is Islam the problem?
Bush and Obama tried so hard to distinguish such extremism from Islam as we have mentioned that several times in the article. However, this constant need to explain the phenomenon and separate the two terms had consequences. They kept refusing the fact that Islam and terrorism were connected and this has motivated a large part of the population in America to believe that the jihadists and extremists DO represent the religion. Several scholars, advisers, and congressmen said that ISIS and Islam are related and that this is the fact people need to accept. We just have to point out that this doesn’t mean that all of those who believe in Allah should be considered extremists, but we have to agree with the fact that Islamic State and Islam are connected to some degree.