Why I Miss George W. Bush

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Source: The New York Times

By Mehdi Hassan

is the host of the Al Jazeera English show “UpFront.”

WASHINGTON — AS a Briton who, like millions of my compatriots, opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, I did not expect to ever find much to admire about President George W. Bush. But as a Muslim who has come to work in America, I have recently had to revise my opinion.

Less than a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,996 people, President Bush held a news conference at the Islamic Center of Washington. “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” he said, flanked by imams and community leaders. “Islam is peace.”

It was a message repeated often in the months and years afterward. “Our war is against evil,” the president said, “not against Islam.”

Fourteen years later, such remarks seem distant, if not improbable, amid the miasma of anti-Muslim hate and fearmongering fostered by the Republican candidates for president.

In recent days, Donald J. Trump has claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers — a statement refuted by the city’s mayor and rated by the fact-checking watchdog PolitiFact as “Pants on Fire.” Mr. Trump has also said he “would certainly implement” a federal database to register America’s estimated three million-plus Muslims and would not rule out asking Muslim-Americans to carry a special form of ID noting their faith.

Another contender, the former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, said that he is opposed to a Muslim’s being allowed to run for president because Islam is “inconsistent” with the Constitution. He also compared some Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”

The anti-Muslim animus extends even to establishment Republican candidates. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, said he would prefer to give asylum to Christian, rather than Muslim, refugees. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, meanwhile, tried to outdo Mr. Trump by saying he’d close not only mosques, but Muslim cafes and diners, too.

Senator Rand Paul, the libertarian who earlier this year held up the renewal of the Patriot Act with a filibuster-like 11-hour speech in the Senate, now demands “heightened scrutiny” of Muslim immigrants. His Senate colleague Ted Cruz claims that Shariah law “is an enormous problem” in the United States.

Working our way down the roster, what of the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee or Gov. John Kasich of Ohio? Mr. Huckabee has called Islam “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet,” and Mr. Kasich has proposed a federal agency to spread “Judeo-Christian Western values.”

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is an exception among Republican presidential candidates for pushing back against the anti-Muslim “crazies” and their “crap” about Shariah law. That was in 2011, but now even Mr. Christie has taken a hard-line stance against Syrian refugees. That Mr. Christie is polling at about 3 percent, while Mr. Trump leads the field, suggests that Islamophobia is a vote winner with the modern G.O.P.

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