Is Bush Too Nice to Islam?

So says a growing group of conservative Christians.

Since Sept. 11, President Bush's outreach to Muslims--calling Islam a "peaceful religion," hosting a Ramadan dinner at the White House, and describing the Muslim scripture as the "holy" Qur'an--has been applauded by many Americans as a display of old-fashioned American religious tolerance.

But not everyone. Conservative Christians say Bush's group hug with Muslims amounts to a near-repudiation of his Christian beliefs, and proof that the President is ignoring his evangelical base. Some conservative activists are threatening to take their allegiance elsewhere if the Administration doesn't pay attention to them.

"We don't believe Islam needs validating at the highest level of American government," says David Crowe, director of Restore America, a grassroots conservative Christian political organization based in Oregon. "A lot of people think Bush has bent way too far over backward to say nice things about Muslims."

For now, the grousing has not gone completely public--and conservative leaders want to keep it that way because they don't want to be seen as disloyal to the Bush administration. But some political experts and conservative activists suggest it may turn into something bigger.

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Some of the discontent bubbled to the surface after a Nov. 19 dinner at the White House celebrating Ramadan, the first ever held at the White House and attended by a U.S. president. In response, one evangelical group--the Family Policy Network--asked its members to contact the White House and "politely express your opposition to Islamic prayer services at the White House." On Monday, Bush went a step further, hosting Muslim children at the White House as they ended Ramadan.

The Family Policy Network has also encouraged members to "thank Franklin Graham for his faithfulness to Christ in the face of criticism." That was a reference to comments made by Billy Graham's evangelist son, in which he described Islam as a "wicked, violent" religion. The White House publicly disagreed with Graham, saying the president "views Islam as a religion that preaches peace."

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Deborah Caldwell
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