The Hill: "Bush's silence on the plans could become deafening" and "an endorsement of the plans from the former president, who took pains to separate Islam and terror in the wake of 9/11, would no doubt complicate the current Republican offensive over the project."
As the SNL guy who imitated his father might have put it: "Not gonna do it!"
Former US president George W. Bush, who worked hard for years to convince fellow Americans that Islam is a "religion of peace," declined comment Tuesday about a controversial mosque-building project.
Bush, through spokesman David Sherzer, stayed out of the political dispute over plans to build an Islamic community center that would include a mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in New York, AFP reports
Some of Bush's fellow Republicans, including former vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin and other potential 2012 White House hopefuls have sharply assailed plans to build the center two city blocks away from the site of the former World Trade Center, an urban scar commonly called "Ground Zero"
The former president won generally good reviews for his repeated public appeals to Americans not to blame all Muslims for the terrorist strikes carried out by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington six days after the attacks and declared: "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."
He also bluntly scolded any Americans who would take their anger and anguish out on US Muslims, warning: "That should not and that will not stand in America."
"Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior," he said.
Republicans have denounced the planned mosque construction on grounds that building a Muslim place of worship near the place where Islamist extremists attacked the United States offends the memory of the victims of 9-11.
TPMMuckraker recently reported that the "ground zero Iman" who has been slammed by many Republicans was a "Bush-era partner for mideast peace."
If one were to hearken back to the halcyon days of the Bush Administration, one would remember that, when Bush adviser Karen Hughes was appointed Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, the Bush Administration saw improving America's standing among Muslims abroad as a part of its national security strategy. And, as such, Hughes set up listening tours, attended meetings and worked with interfaith groups that -- shocking, by today's Republican standards -- included actual Muslims.
One of those people was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Contemporary press accounts indicate that Rauf and Hughes were part of the February 2006 U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He was part of a delegation that met with her in March 2006 and held a joint press conference. A letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in November 2007 indicates that contacts with Hughes and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had continued apace.
At AOL News, Andrea Stone notes,
A spokesman for the former president told AOL News that Bush would have no comment on the matter.
But days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush had much to say about the need for religious tolerance even after Islamic extremists carried out the worst foreign attack in history on U.S. soil.
"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," Bush said at the Islamic Center of Washington in a speech that set the tenor for when he later sent U.S. troops to fight on Muslim soil in Afghanistan and later Iraq. "That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."
He went on to say, in words that Democrats who disagreed with Bush on nearly every issue now recall fondly, that despite raw emotions, millions of American Muslims "need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect."
"President Bush would have said more or less the same thing as President Obama, only President Bush wouldn't have come under attack from extremists for saying so," Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told AOL News. "Any leader has to take a position based on principle and not on a sense of mob rule."
The Hill adds, "Now that it has become a full-scale national controversy and campaign issue Ã¢â‚¬â€ with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and dozens of Republican candidates across the country in 2010 weighing in Ã¢â‚¬â€ Bush's silence on the plans could become deafening the longer the debate wears on."
An endorsement of the plans from the former president, who took pains to separate Islam and terror in the wake of 9/11, would no doubt complicate the current Republican offensive over the project.
(with additional reporting by AFP)