At Wednesday's rededication ceremony of the Saudi-funded Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., President Bush missed a perfect opportunity to repudiate apologism for radical Islam, and instead announced his latest plan to get the Muslim world to stop hating America: appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Bush praised the OIC, saying, "We admire and thank those Muslims who have denounced what the Secretary General of the OIC called 'radical fringe elements who pretend that they act in the name of Islam.'" The special envoy's mission, Bush said, would be to "listen and learn" to OIC ambassadors.
While this may sound nice, it is rooted in complete ignorance of the rampant radicalism, pro-terrorist, and anti-American sentiments routinely found in statements by the OIC and its leaders, including referring to "Islamophobia" — and not the mass slaughter of innocents in the name of Islam — the "worst form of terrorism," as OIC did last May.
In 2002, the OIC published its "Declaration on International Terrorism." Therein, the authors stated, amongst other outrageous claims, that there was no such thing as Palestinian terrorism, writing, "We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism." To the OIC, groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and Hezbollah are not terrorists, but "freedom fighters."
This is just the beginning of a litany of the OIC's wrongs. In March 2006, OIC General Secretary Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu embraced Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal at a press conference at OIC's headquarters. Ihsanoglu whitewashed: "With its win, Hamas begins a new stage in the development of the Palestinian issue. We assure that Hamas will deal with all national and international requirements in a practical and logical way."
At a "special session" of the OIC in August of the same year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for "the elimination of the Zionist regime," a statement that OIC failed to condemn. Moreover, the OIC has repeatedly backed Iran's nuclear ambitions. As Ishanoglu said in April, "All member states of the OIC and I have obviously supported Iran's right to access peaceful nuclear technology," despite clear indications that the Iranian regime's uranium-enrichment program is designed chiefly to make nuclear weapons.
And then, there is OIC's explaining away of the 9/11 attacks, which "expressed the frustration, disappointment, and disillusion that are festering deep in the Muslims' soul towards the aggressions and discriminations committed by the West."
These are the people that President Bush feels the need to "listen and learn" from. And the Bush administration's wishful thinking extends beyond his feelings toward the OIC, to the very location where Bush was giving his speech.
The 2005 Freedom House report on the Saudi-led radicalization of American mosques specifically identifies the Washington Islamic Center as a hotbed of hatred. In the past decade, I personally collected numerous copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion from the mosque. The Freedom House report chronicles the center's extremism: imams instructed their students to distance themselves from the West, forbade Muslim students from wearing the traditional cap and gown at during University graduation, and warned that participating in American holidays was the "most dangerous form of imitating the unbelievers, the most destructive and the most prevalent among the Muslims."
The center's library included a Saudi text book for 11th graders that described "the role of the Jews in the corruption of the European way of life," and that Jews used "innocuous-sounding themes as 'progress and civilization' or 'individual freedom' to destroy Europe."
There are many more examples in the report. Unfortunately, the President's lack of awareness is not limited to the OIC and the Washington Islamic Center, but also to the officials of the so-called "moderate" Muslim organizations whom the FBI, Department of Justice, Defense Department, and Department of State routinely invite to meetings and hearings.
In his speech, Bush said, "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." Yet that very talking point is the refuge of America's supposedly mainstream Muslim organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Islamic Society of North American (ISNA).
In March 2002, in response to an FBI raid of Islamist organizations in Northern Virginia, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said, "This is a war against Islam and Muslims… Our administration has the burden of proving otherwise." In February 2004, MPAC Vice Chairman Aslam Abdullah said, "in the name of the 'war on terror,' Islam and Muslims have become a target in America and elsewhere," and in June 2004 Abdullah accused President Bush of engaging in "a religious and racist agenda and prejudice against Islam, Muslims, and Arabs." In 2004, Louay Safi, a top ISNA official, went further, writing that the "assertion by 'world leaders' that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam is nothing but a piece of propaganda and disinformation that was meant to appease Western Muslims and to maintain the coalition against terrorism."
Meanwhile, Bush's own Justice Department recently formally named CAIR and ISNA as Muslim Brotherhood–front groups, listing them as unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terrorist financing case in U.S. history, against the Holy Land Foundation, an alleged Hamas front group.
In his wrongheaded outreach to the OIC, the president aligns with those who think the West is responsible for Islamic terrorism. Bush himself has said we "abandoned Muslims in the Middle East to tyrants and terrorists." Yet Wahhabism was born in the 18th century, long before Western colonialism in the Middle East and the resulting appointment of despotic rulers. It was the fascist Muslim Brotherhood that gave birth to terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Hamas, and it is the absence of a reformation that keeps the Muslim world boiling and in regression.
Unfortunately, despite his best intentions, the president gave the wrong speech at the wrong time. Perhaps the most telling indicator of his error was the fact that hours after his speech, CAIR, the un-indicted co-conspirator in the Hamas case in Dallas, congratulated the president on the appointment of a representative to OIC. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Steve Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.