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Bush Is Right on Islam, Robertson Is Wrong

When Bush refuses to cradle Christianity and to crusade for Christian domination, he values the separation of church and state, advances religious liberty for all and retains the role of a political leader, not a religious one.

On Thursday, the president took off his shoes and entered the Islamic Center of Washington to observe the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
Acknowledging that Ramadan was a time when mercy was practiced, Bush said that Muslims demonstrate “a spirit of tolerance.” 
“The spirit behind this holiday is a reminder that Islam brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people worldwide,” Bush said. “Islam affirms God’s justice and insists on man’s moral responsibility. This holiday is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind.” 
He characterized American Muslims as fellow citizens who “lead lives of honesty and justice and compassion.” 
Bush’s visit and remarks marked the 17th time since <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Sept. 11, 2001, that he has noted the peaceful nature of Islam, according to the Washington Post
Most recently, Bush told reporters in a mid-November meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that “Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others.” 
“Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government,” he said, distancing himself from the Christian right. 
Bush’s comments then drew a sharp and sustained attack from Christian fundamentalists. 
The most visible and vociferous critic has been TV evangelist Pat Robertson, who told the Washington Times that Bush “is not elected as chief theologian.” 
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday, Robertson stepped up his attacks on Bush, accusing the president of “playing geopolitics” and sinking to “political correctness.” 
Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, said Bush was ignoring history when he refused to point out that Islam is “violent at its core.” 
Bush’s positive statements about Islam have “caused a great deal of consternation, especially among his base, who know better,” Robertson said.   
“I’m one of his biggest supporters. I think I played a significant role in getting him elected,” claimed Robertson. 
Herein is the real, albeit unstated, reason that Christian fundamentalists are disappointed, even furious, with Bush. They are angry that Bush is not using his presidency to promote their religious views. Bush is not acting as the “evangelist in chief.” Bush is not tearing down the wall of separation between church and state to further their cause.  
Christian fundamentalists believe that if the White House will demonize Islam, then their distorted brand of Christianity has a smoother cruise toward national and international dominion. They reason that when the White House speaks well of another religion, it makes their mission much more difficult. 
We elected him. He owes us, big time. He should be promoting our religion, so they think.    
When Bush refuses to cradle Christianity and to crusade for Christian domination, he values the separation of church and state, advances religious liberty for all and retains the role of a political leader, not a religious one.  
Bush is right to give positive regard to Islam. Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and the other fundamentalists are wrong, again. 
Robert Parham is executive director of the BaptistCenter for Ethics. 
Also read: 
Bush Observes Ramadan, Needs to Get Tough with Christian Fundamentalists