AP: Bush ‘Lectures’ Arab Leaders on Need Not to Oppress Women, Kill Infidels

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The media are almost universally giving it a negative spin, but President Bush’s speech to the World Economic Forum in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheik, with representatives from many Arab nations present, was pretty extraordinary: President Bush Attends World Economic Forum.

This section jumped out at me:

There are people who claim that democracy is incompatible with Islam. But the truth is that democracies, by definition, make a place for people of religious belief. America is one of the most — is one of the world’s leading democracies, and we’re also one of the most religious nations in the world. More than three-quarters of our citizens believe in a higher power. Millions worship every week and pray every day. And they do so without fear of reprisal from the state. In our democracy, we would never punish a person for owning a Koran. We would never issue a death sentence to someone for converting to Islam. Democracy does not threaten Islam or any religion. Democracy is the only system of government that guarantees their protection.

Some say any state that holds an election is a democracy. But true democracy requires vigorous political parties allowed to engage in free and lively debate. True democracy requires the establishment of civic institutions that ensure an election’s legitimacy and hold leaders accountable. And true democracy requires competitive elections in which opposition candidates are allowed to campaign without fear or intimidation.

Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail. America is deeply concerned about the plight of political prisoners in this region, as well as democratic activists who are intimidated or repressed, newspapers and civil society organizations that are shut down, and dissidents whose voices are stifled. The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices, and treat their people with dignity and the respect they deserve. I call on all nations to release their prisoners of conscience, open up their political debate, and trust their people to chart their future. (Applause.)

We’ve had our ups and downs with Dubya recently around here but this is a remarkable statement, very unlike the usual diplo-speak.

I wonder if CAIR will seethe?

UPDATE at 5/18/08 6:05:58 pm:

At ABC News, the AP article: Bush Lectures Arab World on Political Reform, Women’s Rights.

Winding up a five-day trip to the region, Bush took a strikingly tougher tone with Arab nations than he did with Israel in a speech Thursday to the Knesset. Israel received effusive praise from the president while Arab nations heard a litany of U.S. criticisms mixed with some compliments.

Now why do you think that is? It’s a real head-scratcher.

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