In a candid interview with an Arab weekly, a Muslim appointed by George W. Bush to a religious freedom panel charged the president’s policies are driven by a Christian, religious fundamentalism from the colonial era and urged that Bush not be re-elected.
Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, originally of Egypt, was appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent panel established by Congress that makes policy recommendations to the president and secretary of state.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl
A visiting professor at Yale Law School and a full professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, El Fadl told the Egyptian government weekly, October, that he had warned Muslim groups in the U.S. Bush “is a Christian religious fundamentalist and that the group around him, of the likes of [Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz and others, hold the same beliefs that accompanied colonialism’s entrance to the Muslim countries in the 19th century.”
Interview excerpts were published by the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Insitute.
El Fadl called the U.S. response to the Taliban regime after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks a “raid on Afghanistan”
He said there “were at first some hesitations in the American administration,” but when the campaign “was carried out, it cost much less than they expected, and this spurred them on, in a way reminiscent of intoxication and drunkenness, to start thinking of invading Iraq, Syria, and Iran, and of changing the map of the region.”
The professor said during the 2000 presidential campaign, he warned U.S. Islamic groups not to side with Bush.
“Unfortunately, because of shortsightedness and ignorance, the Islamic organizations helped Bush reach the White House,” he said. “I met with many leaders of these organizations, and I told them that I have known Bush well since he was governor of Texas, where I live, and I am familiar with his bad policy, which does not bode well.”
He said Bush gave the Islamic leaders a “certain status” during his campaign, which caused them to lose their “equilibrium.”
“They did not listen – not only to me, but also to someone like Ralph Nader, who was a presidential candidate of Arab origin,” El Fadl said. “He met with them and all but pleaded with them not to vote for Bush. He all but kissed their hands so they wouldn’t.”
The professor said when Bush became president, “there was a revolution in American policy.”
“He brought in religious Christian people,” El Fadl asserted. “In the field, Bush permitted missionaries into Iraq before medicines. He is the first president in the history of America whose policy includes supporting Christian missionaries and applying pressure through them on some countries. He links them with continued American aid to some countries.”
El Fadl said the American understating of democracy does not apply to the Muslim world.
“Bush says that he respects Islam and wants to spread democratic standards in the Islamic countries,” he said. “When we ask him what exactly these democratic standards that he calls for are, he has no answer, as if Islam was permitted to exist only provided that it was Islam according to American standards.”
‘Lies of the government’
When asked what Americans think about what is happening in Iraq, El Fadl said he heard congressional testimony indicating 20 percent of soldiers are suffering from mental disorders.
“Some of them were panic-stricken in their sleep and wet themselves, not only because of the [Iraqi] resistance, but also because of the lies of the government that had convinced the soldiers that the Iraqis would greet them with flowers,” he said.
El Fadl claimed that in several articles he wrote for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, he predicted what would happen.
“The White House wrote to me and asked me: ‘How did you know?!’ I told them, from analysis, from studying history, and from political science, I knew that this is what would happen,” he said. “[I told them,] ‘You were misled by the situation in Afghanistan, but the resistance will increase, and if you intervene in Syria and Iran, even double the sum you are requesting [from Congress] will not meet your needs, and the Shiites will rise up against you.'”
El Fadl said that does mean the “danger of invasion has passed for Syria and Iran,” but if Bush “manages to remain for a second term, the considerations will change, because then he won’t care about his political future and he can gamble on an erroneous policy.”
“The changed situation led the president’s advisers to suggest to him that Israel play a role in the countries that America wants to invade or whose regime it wants to change,” he said. “On this matter, I told the State Department and President Bush’s representative [whom I met] in the White House: ‘If Israel attacks Syria and Iran, the entire Islamic world will say that it is doing so with American approval and cooperation, even if America disavows it.’ They thanked me and said that they would examine the matter … .”
El Fadl boasted he “had an influential role in the past” on American policy, “and I even got to the point of determining the [U.S.] deployment plan of withdrawal from Iraq. I did not win that battle, but I managed to obtain a promise from the American government that it would withdraw soon.”
The interviewer asked: “You speak as if you are a one-man pressure group on the American administration.”
The professor replied: “I have the authority and promises from the American administration that what I say is taken into account, and that it is of interest. I do not waste my time. I told them this and I added: ‘Either the promises you are giving me will be realistic, or everything is a lie, and I’ll quit and go back to my academic post.'”