POLITICS
11/16/2015 11:27 am ET | Updated Nov 16, 2015

Jeb Bush Doesn't Know Why People Won't Say 'Radical Islam.' He Should Ask His Brother.

"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," George W. Bush said.

Phil Coale/Associated Press
Unlike Jeb Bush, former President George W. Bush was hesitant to use terms like "radical Islam."

Since the attacks in Paris last week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) -- and other GOP presidential candidates -- have made a point to use the term "radical Islam" to describe the terrorists' ideology, and have chastised people who are hesitant to do the same.

"[F]or the life of me, I have a hard time understanding why people get twisted up in knots to avoid saying that this is radical Islamic terrorism," Bush said on CBS on Monday morning.

"This is radical Islamic terrorism, period, over and out, and we should have a strategy to take it out," he added. 

On CNN Sunday, Bush added that the issue was not "religion," but it was "a political ideology that has co-opted a religion, and I think it's more than acceptable to call it for what it is and then organize an effort to destroy it."

If Bush is confused why some people don't want to use the term "radical Islam," he could find an answer in the speeches of his brother, former President George W. Bush, who also tried to avoid such rhetoric (although he did sometimes use it).

In the days immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the former president urged the public not to blame Muslims and the Islamic faith for the horrific tragedy. 

"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," he said in a speech at the Islamic Center in Washington on Sept. 17. "That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."

Here are more quotes from George W. Bush that distinguish between the fight against extremists and the Islamic faith.

  • "Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil." [9/27/01]
  • "We're taking action against evil people. Because this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it -- good will prevail." [1/5/02]
  • "Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Islam. They've hijacked a great religion." [10/11/02]

Obama also avoids using the term "radical Islam," though he has taken a fair amount of heat for doing so. On Monday, in a press conference at the G-20 meeting in Turkey, Obama explained why tying the radical ideology of terrorists to Islam is not only inaccurate but also counterproductive: 

The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years -- and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL -- are themselves Muslims," Obama said. "ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims." ...

 

To the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam -- those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive, they're wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment in the terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

 

What is also true is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are the ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world -- religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people -- have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root. Even if it's only affecting a very small fraction of the population, it is real, and it is dangerous. 

During Saturday's Democratic presidential primary debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also declined to embrace the term "radical Islam" and cited the former GOP president's example as a model. 

"That was one of the real contributions -- despite all the other problems -- that George W. Bush made after 9/11, when he basically said, after going to a mosque in Washington, we are not at war with Islam or Muslims," Clinton said.

Former George W. Bush administration officials said their rhetoric was very deliberate because they "wanted to make it very clear that we are not at war with Islam and every Muslim in the world."

This piece was updated with comments from Jeb Bush on CNN Sunday.


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