US President George W. Bush made a proper and necessary move Nov. 13 when he made clear that his country is not at war with Islam.
His statement followed and apparently responded to denunciations of Islam by several conservative Christian leaders in the US.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, for example, had referred to the Prophet Mohammed in a television interview as "a terrorist." And evangelist Franklin Graham, in a televised dedication of a chapel in North Carolina, called Islam "wicked, violent."
Falwell later apologized, saying he was responding to a controversial question and made a mistake.
Graham made no such apology. Asked for a clarification by NBC News, he said, "It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings [in New York and Washington, DC, on Sept. 11, 2001]. It wasn't Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."
Bush apparently wants no association with such talk and didn't shrink from saying so. Good for him.
In a statement from the Oval Office during a meeting with United Nations Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan, the president said, "Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans.
"Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance, Mr. Secretary General, and we respect the faith, and we welcome people of all faiths in America."
The statement was planned; Bush wasn't responding to a question. He spoke during a photo opportunity with journalists while meeting with Annan on Iraq.
"Our war," Bush said, "is a war against individuals whose hearts are full of hate. We do not fight a religion."
It's wholly unsound for religious leaders to characterize an entire religion on the basis of a few murderous fanatics. It's also irresponsible.
As Bush said, the religious leaders didn't speak for all Americans when they disparaged Islam. They didn't speak for all Christians, either.
Muslims need to know that.
(Online Nov. 22; author's e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)