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Bush Encourages Muslim Moderates


President Bush says he is confident that religious moderates in the Middle East will ultimately overcome the extremism fueling terrorist violence. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush also announced a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

President Bush says the concept of religious freedom and individual rights is expanding in every region of the world except one.

"In the Middle East, we have seen instead the rise of a group of extremists who seek to use religion as a path to power and a means of domination," said President Bush. "This self-appointed vanguard presumes to speak for Muslims. They do not."

The president says extremists falsely claim that America is at war with Muslims, when he says it is radicals who are Islam's true enemies by attacking religious shrines in hopes of dividing Shi'ite from Sunni.

Mr. Bush spoke at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Center of Washington. The president first visited that mosque six days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to denounce reprisals against Muslim Americans.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bush said he is working to encourage democracy in the Middle East, not as a plan imposed from outside but as something that he says is being seized by the people of the region themselves.

"Millions seek a path to the future where they can say what they think, travel where they wish, and worship as they choose," he said. "They plead in silence for their liberty. And they hope someone somewhere will answer."

The president says elections in Afghanistan and Iraq are important milestones on the path to democracy, but he says the struggle does not end there.

"We say to those who yearn for freedom from Damascus to Tehran, you are not bound forever by your misery," said Mr. Bush. "You plead in silence no longer. The free world hears you. You are not alone. America offers you its hand in friendship."

At the ceremony, President Bush announced that he will name the first U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group based in Saudi Arabia that represents 57 Islamic states and territories.

Mr. Bush says that person, whom he did not name, will listen to and learn from representatives of Muslim states while sharing with them America's views and values. He calls this an opportunity for Americans to demonstrate respectful dialogue and continued friendship with Muslim communities.

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