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Bush: People of Islamic World Must Choose Democracy

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2004 – The "struggle between extremism and civilized values" is unfolding around the world, President Bush said today in Istanbul, Turkey.

He cited Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Israel as places where people are struggling for reform and peaceful, democratic states.

"For citizens of the broader Middle East, the alternatives could not be more clear," Bush told an audience at Galatasaray University. "One alternative is a political doctrine of tyranny, suicide and murder that goes against the standards of justice found in Islam and every other great religion.

"The other alternative is a society of justice, where men and women live peacefully and build better lives for themselves and their children," he added.

The president said this cause "can never be served by the murder of the innocent."

He noted more than half the world's Muslims live in democracies, "from Indonesia to West Africa, from Europe to North America."

Bush cited surveys in Arab nations that show broad support for representative government and individual liberty. "We are seeing reform in Kuwait and Qatar, Bahrain and Yemen, Jordan and Morocco," he said. "We're seeing men and women of conscience and courage step forward to advocate democracy and justice in the broader Middle East."

Democracy in the Middle East also will lead to a safer United States, Bush said. "A hopeful Middle East will no longer produce ideologies and movements that seek to kill our citizens," he added.

He called this transformation "one of the great and difficult tasks of history."

Bush also discussed the way ahead for Iraq and praised NATO for agreeing to train Iraqi forces. "I am grateful to Turkey and other NATO allies for helping our friends in Iraq build a nation that governs itself and defends itself," he said.

But efforts to end terrorism and promote democracy can't be possible without "ties of trust and goodwill" between Eastern and Western cultures.

"Trust and good will come more easily when men and women clear their minds and their hearts of suspicion and prejudice and unreasoned fear," Bush said.

He cited examples of some Americans insulting Muslims and some Middle Easterners inciting hatred and violence as things that harm the cause of peace.

"All such talk, in America or the Middle East, is dangerous and reckless and unworthy of any religious tradition," Bush said. "Whatever our cultural differences may be, there should be respect and peace in the House of Abraham."

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