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.
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."
"Lots of people I've spoken to--not just the grassroots but also leaders of other pro-family organizations--are bewildered at why George Bush is doing so much to pay homage to Islam," says Joe Glover, a conservative Christian political organizer who is president of the Family Policy Network in Virginia, a Christian anti-gay rights group. "Conservative evangelicals love Muslims. They care for them. They want to provide religious freedom for them. However, they are diametrically opposed to Islam."
On Monday, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson discussed the emerging Islam "problem" as it relates to the case of John Walker, the accused American Taliban fighter. "Since Sept. 11, many of our elites have bent over backwards to obscure, even hide, Islam's true nature," Colson said on his radio program, Breakpoint. "That's why people like Walker and his parents believe that Islam is a peaceful faith....The Walker case, you see, is really a metaphor for what happens if Americans buy into the politically correct talk about Islam being peace-loving. Christians have to be prepared to take the lead in setting the record straight."
Janet Folger, director of the Center for Reclaiming America, part of D. James Kennedy's powerful Florida-based Coral Ridge Ministries, is also unhappy with the Bush display of tolerance.
"My heart sank when they opened the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service in the name of God, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus and Allah," she says. "I don't pray in the name of Baal any more than I pray in the name of Allah. Because guess what? Allah is a different god. It's not one big umbrella and we shouldn't just get along. If you look in the Bible, God isn't real fond of people who pray to false gods."
On one conservative message board, run by the Free Republic Foundation, member tex-oma wrote of the president: "He's a fool to praise a religion that is the root cause of the terrorism. Just as he is a fool to solicit and embrace homosexuality." Another member named Penny wrote: "I hope that if this was the wrong decision (and I believe it was a BIG mistake), God will make that clear to W. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, and I fear with this latest move he's crossed it." Ironword responded: "I wish he'd quit buoying an irrational, copycat, ritualistic, false religion."Another piece of the equation is conservative Christians' long-standing outrage over persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. Lately, evangelicals have become deeply angry that in its war on terrorism, the Administration is cozying up to some of the countries where Christian persecution is the most intense--Pakistan, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.