Annals of Cognitive War blunders: George Bush, “Islam is a religion of peace.”
In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, President Bush appeared with members of the American Muslim community on September 17, 2001, at Islamic Center in DC to declare that Islam is a religion of peace. His comments:
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.”
Now were we a “reality-based” community with a sophisticated sense of both the narratives and the exegetical principles of the “other,” such a statement would have been met with howls of derision, especially from academics whose knowledge of the history of Islam would make such a characterization as “religion of peace” risible, and who knew alas only too well what shouts of joy 9-11 provoked in Muslim, Arab and even other audiences the world over.
Moreover, more than one person should have been equipped to explain to the President that the man standing by his side, Nihad Awad of CAIR, who may well have supplied the president with the oh-so eloquent Qur’anic quote, heard those words to mean precisely the opposite of what Bush thought: “In the long run [i.e., finally, now], evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil [i.e., America]. For that they [Americans] rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.”
And rather than slowly learn from this, American scholars and journalists by and large continue to widely mouth the delusional pieties of the president. Despite extensive critiques from Daniel Pipes
, in 2012, Samuel Freedman wrote in the NYT: