WASHINGTON – Former US president George W. Bush, who worked hard for years to convince fellow Americans that Islam is a "religion of peace," declined comment Tuesday about a controversial mosque-building project.
Bush, through spokesman David Sherzer, stayed out of the political dispute over plans to build an Islamic community center that would include a mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in New York.
Some of Bush's fellow Republicans, including former vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin and other potential 2012 White House hopefuls have sharply assailed plans to build the center two city blocks away from the site of the former World Trade Center, an urban scar commonly called "Ground Zero"
The former president won generally good reviews for his repeated public appeals to Americans not to blame all Muslims for the terrorist strikes carried out by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington six days after the attacks and declared: "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."
He also bluntly scolded any Americans who would take their anger and anguish on US Muslims, warning: "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," he said.
Republicans have denounced the planned mosque construction on grounds that building a Muslim place of worship near the place where Islamist extremists attacked the United States offends the memory of the victims of 9-11.
© AFP 2013