President Bush was widely criticized by Muslim leaders Thursday for saying that the breakup of an alleged plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean was a triumph in the "war against Islamic fascists."
Muslims, already resentful of the scrutiny they have been under since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said the politically charged phrase unfairly connected one of the world's great religions with Nazism and totalitarianism -- and fueled hostility against Islam and Muslims in America.
They said it also contradicted Bush's earlier statements that Islam was a religion of peace.
"There's nothing Islamic about fascism," said Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. "Suggesting there is only over-politicizes things in a way that does not accurately describe the criminal adversaries we face at the moment."
She added: "It would have been far more accurate had he linked the situation to a segment of people rather than an entire faith, along the lines of, say, radical Muslim fascists."
Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, based in Garden Grove, agreed.
"He should be very sensitive about such things so that people do not misunderstand any faith, let alone one of the largest faiths of mankind," Siddiqi said. "I don't think his advisors are giving the right advice."
It's not the first time Bush has angered Muslims with his remarks. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, he referred to the global war on terrorism as a crusade, a term that connotes Christian attacks on Islam in the Middle Ages.
Over the last five years, administration officials and conservative talk-show hosts have frequently referred to Al Qaeda, terrorists and Iraqi insurgents as "Islamo-fascists."
Muslims say the administration is trying to convince Americans that they have the moral high ground in the fight against terrorism.
In a letter to Bush, Parvez Ahmed, board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, wrote, "The use of ill-defined hot-button terms such as 'Islamic fascists,' 'militant jihadism,' 'Islamic radicalism' or 'totalitarian Islamic empire' harms our nation's image and interests worldwide, particularly in the Islamic world."