Bush sidesteps the arrant nonsense about Muhammad being the world’s first Constitutionalist — in which the questioner mentions his guarantee of “respect for all religions,” but doesn’t say anything about how this respect was grounded in a fundamental denial of the equality of rights and dignity of religious minorities. Nor does the questioner mention Qur’an 4:34 (the wife-beating verse) or other information pertinent to Muhammad’s “championing the welfare of women.” But while sidestepping all that, the President nevertheless comes up with a few other highly questionable statements while answering this question at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University on Monday. From “President Bush Discusses Global War on Terror,” a White House press release (thanks to Jihad Watch News Editor Rebecca Bynum):
Q Morning, Mr. President. I have a more general question about the United States’ work to democratize the rest of the world. Many have viewed the United States’ effort to democratize the world — especially nations in the Middle East — as an imposition or invasion on their sovereign rights. Considering that it was, in fact, the Prophet Mohammed who established the first known constitution in the world — I’m referring to the constitution he wrote for the city of Medina — and that his life and the principles outlined in his constitution, such as the championing of the welfare of women, children and the poor, living as an equal among his people, dissolving disputes between the warring clans in Arabia, giving any man or woman in parliament the right to vote and guaranteeing respect for all religions, ironically parallel those principles that we hold most precious in our own Constitution. I’m wondering how might your recently formed Iraq Study Group under the U.S. Institute for Peace explore these striking similarities to forge a new relationship with Iraqis and educate Americans about the democratic principles inherent in Islam?
THE PRESIDENT: Great question. I believe that the terrorists have hijacked a peaceful religion in order to justify their behavior. I thank you for bringing that to my attention. I will pass on your comments to James A. Baker, who is one of the chairmen of the group going to Iraq.
See, you said something really interesting. Initially, you said, people view America imposing its beliefs. And I hearken back to what I said earlier — this fellow’s question here — that if you believe that freedom is not universal, then it could be viewed as an imposition of beliefs. I’m not saying to countries, you’ve got to look like us or act like us, but I am saying, you know, give your people a chance to be free. And I think it’s necessary for America to take the lead on this issue. I think it is — I think it is vital for our future that we encourage liberty, and in this case, the Middle East. And as you said, it doesn’t necessarily run contrary to what the Prophet Mohammad said.
It doesn’t necessarily? But what about when “the Prophet Mohammad” said that apostates from Islam should be executed (cf. Bukhari vol. 9, bk. 84, no. 57, etc. etc. etc.)? If Islamic countries are going to give their people “a chance to be free,” will that include freedom of conscience? If so, that will involving rejecting what Muhammad said. If not, then how free will they really be? Bush still hasn’t confronted this dilemma.
It’s a — and so how do you advance freedom? I mean, well, one thing you do is you make sure that the Lebanese have a chance to self-govern freely without Syrian interference. It’s one thing you can do. Another thing you can do is work for the establishment of a Palestinian state, which I’m doing. I believe that there will be a Palestinian state that is at peace with Israel. I believe it’s going to have to be a democracy — again, a Palestinian-style democracy — to achieve that. But in my — early in my presidency, I said it’s in our interest that there be two states, side-by-side in peace, and we’re working toward that end.
You know, part of the debate here that I’m sure you’re discussing is whether or not the United States should insist upon elections before everything is right. You hear the — the civil society has to be just right before you can have elections. I disagree strongly with that. I think elections are the beginning of the process, not the end.
And I found the elections that Hamas won very instructive and very interesting. It was — to me, it was a final condemnation of the Arafat era, where people said, we’re sick of corruption; we want better health care and better education; we want — we actually want our leaders to focus on the people, not on their self interests.
All right. Even if we accept that as a correct assessment of the elections, what about Hamas’ repeated and adamant vow to destroy Israel? How does that square with the President’s belief “that there will be a Palestinian state that is at peace with Israel”? He discusses it here, but doesn’t really address it:
And because I believe in two states, side-by-side in peace, and therefore expect the government of both to be peaceful toward each other, we’re not going to deal with a government that has announced that they want to destroy Israel. On the other hand, we will help the Palestinian people. And I believe a democracy will eventually yield the state necessary to be side-by-side with Israel in peace.
So then is he saying that Hamas will eventually be defeated by this alleged overwhelming majority of Palestinians who want to live in peace with Israel? On what basis does he believe this?
The success of a democracy in Iraq — and as I told you, I think we’re going to succeed; as a matter of fact, I know we are if we don’t lose our nerve — will send a powerful signal. Imagine the signal it will send to people in Iran that are not free right now. I believe the women’s movement is going to be the leading edge of changing the Middle East. I don’t believe women want to live as second-class citizens. I believe — I believe it’s — I believe there’s a universal desire to be treated fairly and equally.
Here again, if he really believes this, he is going at some point to have to insist that Sharia not be part of the Iraqi Constitution. Or does he think the Iraqi voters will eventually vote it down on their own accord? On what basis does he think this, after Muslim voters have voted it up virtually every time they’ve had the opportunity?
And so I think — look, I’m pleased with the progress. I was reading the other day where Kuwaiti women are running for office. It’s a positive sign, you know? We’ve got to be realistic about what’s possible, but we’ve got to be firm in our belief that freedom is possible and necessary. Otherwise — I’ll repeat to you — a system that says, okay, let’s just tolerate the tyrant so long as everything seems okay, didn’t work.
That’s one of the lessons of the attack on the United States. You know, the world seemed fine, didn’t it? It seemed kind of placid — there was a bubble here, a bubble there. But everything seemed all right. And yet, beneath the surface, there was tremendous resentment. And it’s now come to the — and so how do you defeat their — now, if you don’t think they have a ideology or a point of view, and/or a strategy to impose it, you’re not going to understand why you think the United States ought not to be as active as we are.
And yet he has still not confronted their ideology and point of view.
But I believe differently. I believe they’re bound — these folks are bound by an ideology. I know that they have got desires. They say it. This is one of — this is a different — this is a war in which the enemy actually speaks out loud. You heard the letter I wrote — read from — they didn’t speak out loud on this one, but nevertheless, it’s a — we’ve got to take their word seriously. When the enemy speaks, it makes sense for our military, our intelligence, the President to take the word seriously so we can adapt and adjust.
Anyway, very interesting question. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Yes, ma’am.