Friday, May 20, 2005

What President Bush Should Have Said Instead

Thomas Friedman of the NYT says that instead of sending Scott McClellan “out to flog Newsweek,” President Bush instead should have used the bully pulpit to speak straight truth to Muslims. It seems like sound advice to me, though I don’t think it was wrong to chastise journalistic malpractice. Here is what Friedman thinks Bush should have said instead:

"Let me say first to all Muslims that desecrating anyone's holy book is utterly wrong. These allegations will be investigated, and any such behavior will be punished. That is how we Americans intend to look in the mirror. But we think the Arab-Muslim world must also look in the mirror when it comes to how it has been behaving toward an even worse crime than the desecration of God's words, and that is the desecration of God's creations. In reaction to an unsubstantiated Newsweek story, Muslims killed 16 other Muslims in Afghanistan in rioting, and no one has raised a peep—as if it were a totally logical reaction. That is wrong.

"In Iraq, where Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni Muslims are struggling to build a pluralistic new order, other Muslims, claiming to act in the name of Allah, are indiscriminately butchering people, without a word of condemnation coming from Muslim spiritual or political leaders. I don't understand a concept of the sacred that says a book is more sacred than a human life. A holy book, whether the Bible or the Koran, is only holy to the extent that it shapes human life and behavior.

"Look, Newsweek may have violated journalistic rules, but what jihadist terrorists are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan—blowing up innocent Muslims struggling to build an alternative society to dictatorship—surely destroys the Koran. They are the real enemies of Islam because they are depriving Muslims of a better future. From what I know of Islam, it teaches that you show reverence to God by showing reverence for his creations, not just his words. Why don't your spiritual leaders say that? I am asking, because I want to know."

That would certainly be an interesting statement. As much as I appreciate and admire the President on many levels, this is the sort of thing he rarely is willing to do. I wish he’d ask such questions.