But conservative Christians were quietly unhappy with Bush's posture. One group, the Virginia-based Family Policy Network, encouraged members to "thank Franklin Graham for his faithfulness to Christ in the face of criticism."
....It's important to distinguish between Graham and other Christian leaders. Unlike Robertson and Falwell, Graham is thought to represent the mainstream evangelical base, one of Bush's crucial voting blocs. Graham's comments signaled how unpopular Bush's Islam-is-peace line had become with this important political group. There was no political cost to Bush after his initial statements; they were viewed as necessary comments to win the war. A direct rebuttal of Graham, however, could have alienated some of his supporters.
On the other hand, it could be argued, a wartime leader needs to be more politically courageous. Bush had plenty of political capital to spend but chose not to. What's more, the comments from Robertson gave Bush an opportunity. While Graham is a popular figure in evangelical circles and neutral with the general public, Robertson is relatively uninfluential with evangelicals and unpopular with the general public. Bush could have disagreed with Robertson, showing his opposition to extremism on all sides, without alienating his base. His unwillingness to do even that exhibits an extreme caution, and some would say, political cowardice, on Bush's part.
I agree with this statement - Bush should have condemned the attacks on Islam in general from evangelical Christian leaders, especially nuts like Falwell and Robertson. It is important for him to speak for those millions of Muslims who do practice Islam as a religion of peace. But there is also this:
- There is another factor: Muslim leaders themselves. They, like Bush, asserted over and over that Islam was a "religion of peace" and that "Islam means peace." There was a cognitive dissonance between these simple assertions and a continuous stream of suicide bombings in the name of Islam. Conservative scholars and religious leaders cited verse after verse from the Koran showing a violent streak. Though many were taken out of context (and were comparable to verses in the Old Testament of the Bible), they nonetheless were effective rebuttals, at minimum, to the claim that "Islam is a religion of peace."
Reacting to the Muslim Reaction
Meanwhile, polls came out during the winter showing that Muslims around the world believed Israel was partly to blame for the attacks; even a few respected American Muslim leaders echoed those statements.
Muslim leaders maintained that Osama bin Laden was an aberration, a single twisted soul distorting Islam. But the reality is something more disturbing - that Islam is now being used as a justification for violence - not by a few, but by many. Though many Muslim leaders criticized the terrorists, few stated that the problems with Islam's misuse were dangerously widespread. As a result, Muslim leaders may have lost some of their credibility.