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US General Apologizes Over Remarks About Islam - 2003-10-18

A senior Pentagon intelligence official criticized for comments considered offensive to Muslims has apologized but at the same time denied he is anti-Islam.

Lieutenant General William Boykin came under fire this past week from Muslim groups and some political figures for comments he made to Christian groups that portrayed the U.S. battle with Islamic terrorists as a clash with the devil.

But in a written statement released late Friday, General Boykin, a senior Pentagon intelligence official, denied he is a religious zealot who is anti-Islam.

He suggested his comments have been misunderstood, insisting he does not see the war on terrorism as a conflict between Islam and Christianity --- a point made repeatedly by the Bush administration.

However General Boykin, like some top administration officials, said he does believe radical extremists have tried to use Islam as a cause for attacks on America. He said these are, in his words, "not true followers of Islam" but are terrorists, like extremists of any faith.

Still, the General offered what he termed a sincere apology to anyone offended by his statements.

The General's remarks earlier this year at Christian religious meetings prompted criticism from some members of the U.S. Congress who suggested he be reprimanded.

Muslim groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations said General Boykin should be reassigned to a position where he could not, in the group's words, harm the image of the United States or its interests.

At a news conference Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined to criticize the General's remarks and praised the combat veteran for his military record. The Chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, told reporters he did not think General Boykin had broken any rules.