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"Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you." It's a good line, but maybe not when you're the attorney general of the United States during a time of ultrasensitivity about Islam. According to columnist Cal Thomas, Attorney General John Ashcroft said it during an interview. It wasn't just a throwaway line—it was the entire basis of Thomas's December 7 radio commentary. "During the interview, Ashcroft said something so profound, I wanted to share it with you. Listen … this is good. The attorney general of the United States said, 'Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you.' I'm going to repeat it." And then he did.

Two months after Thomas's radio commentary aired, it started to make news. On Sunday, the New York Daily News reported the Arab American Institute's anger at the comment. The organization's president, James Zogby, sent a letter to President Bush asking him to "call on Mr. Ashcroft to publicly … clarify the situation and repudiate the comments." Ashcroft should also "make amends" with Arab and Muslim leaders; otherwise Bush should "seek Attorney General Ashcroft's immediate removal or resignation." "Either Cal Thomas is an artful fabricator or John Ashcroft is a prevaricator," Zogby said.

Zogby got his repudiation—in a way. "The reported remarks do not express my views and do not accurately reflect what I believe I said some 12-13 weeks ago," Ashcroft said yesterday. Zogby says it's not enough. "The statement is akin to saying 'I don't recall,'" he tells The Washington Post. "The consequences those remarks ...

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February 2002

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