- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

President Bush challenged Muslim leaders to do more in denouncing Islamic terrorists during a speech today at the same Washington, D.C., mosque in which he said, six days after the September 11 attacks, that Islam is peace.

Men and women of conscience have a duty to speak out and condemn this murderous movement before it finds its path to power, Mr. Bush said. Moderate Muslim leaders have the most powerful and influential voice.

We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence, Mr. Bush said.

The president also urged moderate Muslims to reach out to young Muslims even in our country and elsewhere in the free world who believe suicide bombing may some day be justified.

Mr. Bush was referring to a study by the Pew Research Center released last month that said that 26 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Muslims in the United States think suicide bombings are sometimes justified to defend Islam.

Mr. Bush spoke at this same mosque on Sept. 17, 2001, about the need for Americans to respect Muslims in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The president spoke one day before the 50th anniversary of the mosque”s dedication, an occasion marked by a visit and speech from President Eisenhower.

Mr. Bush also announced today, to enthusiastic applause, that he will appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a body with 57 Islamic member countries.

This is the first time a president has made such an appointment to the OIC, Mr. Bush said. Our special envoy will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states and will share with them America’s views and values.

Imam Mohammed Magid, who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the largest mosques in Northern Virginia, said the president”s speech made clear that a moderate voice needs to be louder.

Mr. Magid said moderate Muslims are not given the same access to media that is given to terrorist leaders such as Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Every time bin Laden issues a [video] tape, why does Al Jazeera and CNN keep playing the tape over and over? Mr. Magid said.

Imam Abdullah M. Khouj, who leads the Islamic Center of Washington, said moderate Muslim leaders are trying to speak out against terrorism.

Everybody”s striving, but people are different in their work Some people are reserved, Mr. Khouj said. But his speech was wonderful, and we were happy to have him.

Mr. Bush, in his speech, also proclaimed America as a place of religious liberty, and sought to dispel the notion that the U.S. presence in Iraq and its broader war against terrorism is a war against Islam.

The freedom of religion is the very first protection offered in America’s Bill of Rights, Mr. Bush said. It is a precious freedom the promise of our Constitution, and a calling of our conscience, and a source of our strength.

The president acknowledged that there are questions about America and her intentions toward the Middle East, but accused Islamic radicals and terrorists of spreading such ideas.

This enemy falsely claims that America is at war with Muslims and the Muslim faith, when in fact it is these radicals who are Islam’s true enemy, Mr. Bush said to some applause.

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