In remarks that lasted a total of seven minutes, President George W. Bush calmed an uneasy nation and the world just six days after the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was September 17, 2001, and he was at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C.
In the days following the worst attacks the U.S. had ever experienced on American soil, as the nation mourned the deaths of 3,000 innocent victims, the president knew he had to prevent wide-spread panic. Not far from the White House, he delivered his message, reaching out to the Muslim population as well as America and the global community, with a message of tolerance.
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” he told those in attendance. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
He continued, “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”
While making a distinction between the terrorists who had attacked America, and Muslims, Bush appealed for open-mindedness and understanding while urging Americans to continue with their everyday lives. With a vigilant eye toward homeland security, the past 16 years have seen few acts of violence on our shores, and there have been no more attacks on the scale of September 11, 2001.
Fast forward to Saturday, January 28, 2017 — just 10 days into the new president’s administration. Amid confusion and poorly communicated orders that left some Middle Eastern travelers stranded at airports while others were deported, protesters took to the streets and crowded into airports to stand in unity with them. They had become innocent pawns as an unexpected travel ban that was issued to block entry into America (see Trump EO Blocks Legal Residents, Causes Confusion at Dulles and Elsewhere by Bearing Drift’s John McGlothlin).
After a weekend filled with unrest, on Tuesday Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of President Bush and daughter-in-law of former Virginia Lieutenant Governor John Hager, tweeted out a message of acceptance, and included the words that her dad spoke on that day 16 years ago when the world was turned upside down:
“This is not the America I know…” just a reminder this am to teach acceptance and love to our kids for all races, all religions.. pic.twitter.com/32XohAGMv7
— Jenna Bush Hager (@JennaBushHager) January 31, 2017
It is a gentle reminder that Americans are tolerant and loving, even in the face of overwhelming adversity and tragedy.
Here are her dad’s “Islam Is Peace” remarks from September 17, 2001.
“Thank you all very much for your hospitality. We’ve just had a — wide-ranging discussions on the matter at hand. Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.
“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.
“The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.
“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.
“When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race — out of every race.
“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.
“Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.
“I’ve been told that some fear to leave; some don’t want to go shopping for their families; some don’t want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they’re afraid they’ll be intimidated. 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.
“This is a great country. It’s a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth. And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do. They’re outraged, they’re sad. They love America just as much as I do.
“I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by. And may God bless us all.” –President George W. Bush