The vitriol directed by President Donald Trump toward the Muslim community is misguided, former President George W. Bush said Monday morning, telling NBC’s “Today” that terrorists “are not religious people.”
From the very beginning of his upstart presidential campaign, Trump’s hard-line stance on terrorism, first by proposing a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and later by pledging “extreme vetting” of those seeking to enter the U.S., has proven controversial. The president’s executive order temporarily banning individuals from certain majority-Muslim nations from entering the U.S. prompted protests at international terminals around the country and a wave of legal challenges.
Bush, who took an exceedingly conciliatory tone toward the Muslim community in the weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, implied that a similar approach might be more successful for Trump. The president’s willingness to paint with broad strokes in his statements on Islam and terrorism misses the mark, Bush told “Today” host Matt Lauer.
“It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to, or not worship at all. The bedrock of our freedom — a bedrock of our freedom — is the right to worship freely,” the former president said. “You see, I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict and people who murder the innocent are not religious people. They want to advance an ideology and we have faced those kind of ideologues in the past.”
Asked directly if he supported the Trump administration’s travel ban as a matter of policy, Bush replied that “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”
The Trump administration has argued that its travel ban is based not on a religious test but on an assessment developed under the administration of former President Barack Obama that the nations in question were “countries of concern.” Federal courts have disagreed thus far, issuing a stay of the president’s immigration order in part because of Trump’s campaign rhetoric promising to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
While administration officials have remained publicly confident that Trump’s immigration order will win in court, the White House is expected to release a new executive order to address the issue in the coming days.