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Obama to drop Bush rhetoric on 'Islamic radicalism'


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Aug 9, 2005
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Islamic terrorism is out at the White House. Viewing the Muslim world through a different lens is in. And for many experts, the replacement of the old prism of President George Bush with a new one crafted by President Barack Obama is long overdue.

“The issue of radicalism should be discussed within the language of political and social problems,” says Taha Özhan, director of the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, or SETA. “Not Islam.”

The shift in tone and language in the documents outlining U.S. security policy were revealed yesterday.President Barack Obama's advisers plan to remove terms such as "Islamic radicalism" from an official document outlining U.S. national security strategy, according to the Associated Press.

The document currently states: “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”

This line, which clearly reflects the outlook of the previous Bush administration, will be replaced by a new version "to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism," counterterrorism officials tell the AP.

This shift away from an emphasis on terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama emphasized in Ankara that "the U.S. is not at war with Islam and will never be," and promised a "new beginning" in Cairo in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The Obama White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas, which was the wrong language to use.

Özhan, the director of SETA, which is often regarded as sympathetic to the conservative Justice and Development Party, or AKP, underlines the same distinction between religion and politics. He says even Islamic movements base their opposition to the West on political matters such as occupation or injustice. “People don’t take up arms because they are all too religious and pray all day,” Özhan says. “They do so because they react to something.”

Özhan, a conservative Muslim himself, welcomes the change in the rhetoric of the Obama administration, but says it should be enduring and consistent.

Another Muslim commentator, Hakan Albayrak, who writes columns for daily Yeni Şafak and who is often critical of American foreign policy, also welcomes Obama’s decision to change the U.S. rhetoric on the Muslim world.

“In fact, Obama has created some disappointment so far with the increasing number of civilian casualties in Pakistan and Israel’s continuing illegal settlements, which he has not done enough to stop,” he says, adding that he and others still think Obama at least has “goodwill,” as reflected in this latest change in language. “It will be good for America,” Albayrak says. “And it will be good for Muslims.”

The AP quotes National Security Council staff member Pradeep Ramamurthy saying: “You take a country where the overwhelming majority are not going to become terrorists, and you go in and say, 'We're building you a hospital so you don't become terrorists.' That doesn't make much sense.”

Politics versus religion

It is likely that this change in official U.S. rhetoric will be welcomed in the Muslim world. In the past decade, many opinion leaders here have categorically rejected to discuss “Islamic terrorism,” a term they saw as slanderous to their religion. Islam, according to the mainstream Muslim view, does certainly not condone violence against civilians, and those who commit such acts of terror are motivated by politics and not religion.

A study by the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, whose team wrote an op-ed for the New York Times last week, seems to support this view. “Many Chechen separatists are Muslim, but few of the suicide bombers profess religious motives,” the experts write with regard to the recent terrorist attacks in Moscow metro. “As we have discovered in our research on Lebanon, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere,” they add, “suicide terrorist campaigns are almost always a last resort against foreign military occupation.”

Obama to drop Bush rhetoric on 'Islamic radicalism' - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

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