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 Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 15:32 GMT
Discord as Bush preaches tolerance
President Bush at a school to announce the Friendship Through Education programme
Mr Bush asked US pupils to connect with Muslim children
The BBC's Rob Watson

President George W Bush is finding himself at odds with some of his key supporters over his efforts to reach out to Muslims in the United States and around the world.

Shortly after the 11 September attacks, Mr Bush announced that the US would launch a crusade against international terrorism.

An anti-Bush protest in Pakistan
Mr Bush - still a target of some Muslim hatred - risks alienating friends
The term "crusade" was deemed highly offensive by Muslims, given its historical context, and was quickly dropped by the president.

Since that one slip, Mr Bush has gone out of his way to preach tolerance towards Islam.

He has made numerous visits to mosques and has repeatedly described Islam as a faith based on peace, love and compassion.

Conservative concern

Most Americans have welcomed that approach - but not all.

A number of key conservatives, normally among the president's closest supporters, say on this issue he is wrong.

One prominent conservative, Paul Weyrich, has written that Islam is at war with America and that it is plainly not a religion of peace and tolerance.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak (l) walks with US counterpart George W Bush
Mr Bush has visited mosques and met Arab leaders
Some have gone further. The Reverend Franklin Graham, who spoke at the president's inauguration, has described Islam as evil.

Another prominent Christian conservative, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, referred to the Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist.

In the year ahead, this will be a key debate to watch.

The Bush administration is anxious not to allow the war on terrorism to become a clash of civilisations.

Many conservatives are equally anxious to make the case that the president is frightened to tell what they see as the truth, for fear of upsetting America's moderate Arab allies.

See also:

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