The New York Times ran a story today, “White House Quietly Courts Muslims in U.S.,” that contrasts the Obama and George W. Bush administration records with regard to American Muslims. The reporter, Andrea Elliott, sums up her argument with a quote from James Zogby of the Arab American Institute: “For the first time in eight years, we have the opportunity to meet, engage, discuss, disagree, but have an impact on policy.”
I don’t believe it.
Yes, Obama is bending over backwards to win Muslim opinion. But Bush did the same. In each of their cases, of course, one can find inconsistencies and exceptions, but the overall Bush record showed great concern for Muslim opinion.
Data points include the symbolic, such as Bush’s adding a Koran to the White House library and initiating celebration of the Ramadan end-of-fast. He tried to win Muslims rhetorically — thus his announcing that Islam is a “religion of peace” and his avoiding connecting Islam to violence (“war on terror”). Moreover, he took substantive steps, such as prohibiting any notice of a person’s religion in airport security and encouraging more Saudi students in the United States.
Interestingly, in covering the first Ramadan iftar at the White House in December 2001, the Times noted that Bush since 9/11 had “made extraordinary gestures to Islam.” One quote in this article by Elisabeth Bumiller nails my point:
Maleeha Lodhi, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, was…dazzled that the White House had a muezzin, a Muslim religious figure, who delivered the prayers before the meal. “It left me very, very moved and impressed,” Dr. Lodhi said. “The Bush White House was demonstrating its respect for Islam.…These sorts of gestures are very important to sending signals to the Muslim world.”
The Times revisionism is blatant and false.