President Barack Obama’s speech memorializing the thousands of 9/11 terror victims played down the identity and purpose of their attackers.
“Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights,” Obama said at the beginning of his Sunday night speech at the Kennedy Center. “Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field.”
Obama did not identify the attackers as Islamists or al Qaida members, and did not describe their purpose, but labeled them vaguely as “hateful killers.”
President George W. Bush was more candid in a Saturday speech at an event marking the tenth anniversary of the deaths of 40 passengers and crew who perished in the Flight 93 crash in Shanksville, Pa.
“They did nothing to provoke or deserve the deliberate act of murder that al Qaida carried out,” Bush said. He also did not identify their attackers as being motivated by Islamic theology.
Obama’s decision to downplay the religious motivations of the 9/11 strike reflected his current policy of downplaying al Qaida, the international Islamist movement, and of downplaying tensions between Americans, immigrant Muslims and some of their U.S.-based advocacy groups.
Prior to Sunday’s commemorations, guidelines the White House issued to administration officials urged them to downplay al Qaida. The terror group’s members “still have the ability to inflict harm … [but] Al Qaeda and its adherents have become increasingly irrelevant,” according to a copy of the guidelines publicized Aug. 29 by the New York Times. (RELATED: Obama 9/11 speech echoes political themes)
“The United States will never wage war against Islam or any religion,” Obama said in his Sunday night speech, declaring that “immigrants come here from all parts of the globe. In the biggest cities and the smallest towns, in our schools and workplaces, you still see people of every conceivable race, religion and ethnicity — all of them pledging allegiance to one flag; all of them reaching for the same American dream — e pluribus unum, out of many, we are one.”
This optimistic picture of American universalism is contradicted by evidence that a segment of Muslim immigrants have initiated numerous terror attacks in the United States. According to research from the Anti-Defamation League, updated this month: “Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, approximately 200 Americans have been charged for their roles in various bomb plots and conspiracies in the U.S., as well as for providing material support to Islamic terrorist groups.”
A Pew Research Center poll released Aug. 29 showed that 21 percent of Muslims living in the United States believe there is a “great deal” or “fair amount” of support among Muslim Americans for “extremism.” The same poll found that only 34 percent of U.S. Muslims believe Muslim advocacy groups “have done as much as they should” to counter Islamic extremists.
The Pew poll also showed that 7 percent of the 1.8 million Muslim adults in the United States believe suicide bombing and other attacks on civilian targets are “sometimes” justified “to defend Islam from its enemies.”
Seven percent of 1.8 million is 126,000 people.