Bush condemns radical Muslims in visit to mosque

LA Times 

WASHINGTON -- Visiting an Islamic mosque on Washington's Embassy Row, President Bush delivered a strongly worded denunciation today of Muslim radicals and said he would appoint for the first time a U.S. representative to a major international Islamic organization.

Drawing a distinction between moderation in the practice of Islam and those seeking to use the faith for what he described as radical political ends, the president said "it is these radicals who are Islam's true enemy."

Bush's remarks came during his second visit to the Islamic Center of Washington, which is marking its 50th anniversary. He is the first president to visit the center more than once. Six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, he spoke at the center to denounce anti-Muslim violence and prejudice.

That visit occurred during a period of sympathy for the United States. Today he spoke under much different conditions, at a time when U.S. officials have gone out of their way to defend the war in Iraq and present the Bush administration's policy as one intended to further democracy rather than an attack on Islam.

The president, in keeping with custom, removed his shoes before entering the sanctuary. He said the Islamic Center, in a neighborhood not far from a Jewish synagogue, Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church and Buddhist temple, represented the nation's commitment to religious diversity.

He cited U.S. support for Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina after the disintegration of Yugoslavia — a reference applauded by his audience — and said Americans offered such support out of "compassion, conviction and conscience." It reflected the proper course of supporting moderation against extremism, he said.

In the Middle East, he said, "we have seen the rise of groups of extremists who seek to use religion as a path to power."

It is the radicals, Bush said, who stage "spectacular attacks" against Muslim holy sites to divide Muslims and push them into fighting each other, conducting "acts of butchery ... in the name of Allah."

It is such extremism, the president said, that needs to be turned back "before it finds its path to power."

Bush said he would appoint an envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a nearly 40-year-old group of 57 nations created to protect Muslims and fight discrimination against them. The envoy, whom he did not name, will be dispatched to share "America's views and values."