WASHINGTON, 15 November 2002 — US Secretary of State Colin Powell lashed out yesterday against recent anti-Muslim rhetoric from some prominent conservative US Christians, saying such “hatred” damaged US interests. Powell’s comments came a day after President George W. Bush repudiated the same remarks in a rare rebuke of the religious right — one of his main political power bases.
Speaking to business executives at the State Department, Powell said anti-Islam rhetoric “must be rejected” and argued that the United States could not afford to be seen as persecuting Muslims as it battles terrorism. “While we’re protecting ourselves, we’re going to make sure we communicate a vision of an open society, an open nation that welcomes people to come here and to enjoy, to live, to find a new life,” he said.
“We will reject the kinds of comments you have seen recently where people in this country say that Muslims are responsible for the killing of all Jews and who put out hatred,” he said. “This kind of hatred must be rejected,” Powell said. “This kind of language must be spoken out against. We cannot allow this image to go forth of America, because it is an inaccurate image of America. We are a welcoming nation, a nation that is a country of countries, touched by every country.”
Neither Powell nor Bush identified the sources of the offending language, but their comments followed anti-Muslim statements made this week by popular US televangelists Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart. Swaggart on Sunday used extremely derogatory language against Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In addition to his comments about the Prophet, Swaggart called for the expulsion of all foreign Muslim students from the United States and for US Muslims who object to share their fate.
Those remarks, condemned by leading US Muslim and Jewish groups alike, prompted demands for Bush and his administration to speak out against anti-Islam rhetoric. On Wednesday, Bush responded, stressing in unprompted remarks to reporters at the White House that the United States does “not fight religion.”
“Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans,” he said during a meeting with UN chief Kofi Annan. “Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others,” Bush said. (AFP)