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Sep 242012
 

Edward Linsmier/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Remarks President Obama made during an interview Sunday are starting to get some criticism, with the suggestion that Obama implied that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens’ death was a “bump in the road.”

“I guess when u win a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing, an attack that kills an Ambassador is just a ‘bump in the road,’” tweeted former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Other Republicans and conservatives, including officials from the Romney campaign, similarly criticized the president.

Fleischer was referring to this exchange on CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday evening:

Steve Kroft: “Have the events that took place in the Middle East, the recent events in the Middle East given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring?”

President Obama: “Well, I’d said even at the time that this is going to be a rocky path.  The question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change.  I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights — a notion that — people have — to be able to — participate — in — their own governance.  But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because — you know, in a lot of these places — the one organizing principle — has been Islam.”

“The one part of society that hasn’t been controlled completely by the government,” Obama continued.  “There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiments.  And you know can be tapped into by demagogues.  There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements, but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and north Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests.”

A senior administration official emailed ABC News’ senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper Sunday evening about those criticizing the president’s remarks:

“1) It’s just not true that he was characterizing the attack in Benghazi — the question doesn’t even make mention of it.  He’s speaking about broad trends.”

“2) Take a look at his answer — what is there to disagree with?  We are holding true to our values.  We face entrenched strains of extremism.  We will benefit from a region that is more peaceful.”

“3) This is clearly a rocky path — the point he also makes clearly is that we have an interest in democratic transitions succeeding.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Aug 272012
 

John Walker Lindh’s mother and father, Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh, in 2002. SHAWN THEW/AFP/Getty Images(TERRE HAUTE, Ind.) — The father of John Walker Lindh, the young American who was captured in Afghanistan after 9/11 and sentenced to prison for aiding the Taliban against U.S. troops, said he is proud of his son for fighting in court Monday for the right to pray with other Muslim prisoners.

“I was really proud of John,” Frank Lindh told ABC News. “Today he did such a good job of explaining the daily prayer. It was a really well-informed testimony. It shows how much depth of knowledge he has about Islam.”

John Lindh, who pleaded guilty to helping the Taliban and carrying explosives, testified in court Monday that a prison policy limiting group prayer has forced him to sin.

Lindh, 31, is suing prison officials for the right to pray five times a day with fellow Islamic inmates instead of praying alone in his cell.

Lindh is being held in the Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Ind., where he is serving a 20-year sentence for supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony.

“I am a Muslim and my religion requires that I perform five daily prayers in congregation. This is mandatory and not optional,” Lindh wrote in a handwritten complaint to prison officials that was also filed in federal court.

A ban on daily group prayer was instituted in 2007 after Muslim inmates ignored a lockdown caused by a fire alarm, court documents stated. Inmates are free to pray in their individual cells.

Every Friday, Lindh and his fellow inmates in the specialized unit are permitted to gather in the multipurpose room of the prison for the Jum’ah prayer service, which the Koran dictates must be done in a group, court documents stated.

The Communications Management Unit, which was established in 2006, has been referred to as “Guantanamo North.” Inmates whose communications are considered “high risk” to the prison community and the public’s security are housed in individual cells within the unit, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Amos Guiora, a professor of law at the University of Utah who teaches religion and terrorism courses, said daily group prayers in the unit are unlikely to be a terrorism concern.

“I don’t think it raises security concerns, but if it goes beyond the text of the prayer than I can understand how it could be seen as a security question,” Guiora said.

The daily prayers typically take “only a few minutes,” according to Lindh’s lawsuit.

Frank Lindh said he and John’s mother take turns each month commuting from their homes in California to visit their son in Terre Haute, which is 70 miles from Indianapolis.

He said he gets a 15-minute phone call from his son every Wednesday, while John’s mother gets a call every Sunday.

“It’s a very safe environment for John. I’m sorry he’s in prison but this is the best circumstance, that he is not in the general population,” the elder Lindh said.

John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam as a teenager, was captured in Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2001. During his sentencing, he condemned terrorism and said he made a “mistake” joining the Taliban.

“Although I thought I knew a good deal about the Taliban when I went to the front line, it’s clear to me now that there were many things of which I was not aware,” he said.

At the end of his testimony Monday, Lindh was placed in chains and transported back to Terre Haute. On Tuesday, he will be provided with a video link so he can still be present during proceedings in his case, his father said.

Lindh is eligible for release in 2019.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Mar 232012
 

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(FOURCHON, La.) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is amping up his language on President Obama’s faith and his relationship with Muslims.  Gingrich told ABC News Friday that he takes the president at his word that he’s a Christian, but finds it “very bizarre” that Obama is “desperately concerned to apologize to Muslim religious fanatics.”

Gingrich said the president’s apology to the Afghan president for the burning Korans by U.S. soldiers happened last month “while they are killing young Americans,” referring to the two Americans killed during protests over the burned books. Gingrich said at the same time, the administration is “going to war against the Catholic Church and against every right-to- life Protestant organization in the country.”

Asked by a member of the press if it concerns him that a large portion of the electorate believes Obama is a Muslim, Gingrich replied, “It should bother the president.”

“Why does the president behave the way that people would think that? You have to ask why would they believe that? It’s not because they’re stupid. It’s because they watch the kind of things I just described to you,” Gingrich said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Mar 222012
 

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(LAKE CHARLES, La.) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, asked to explain Wednesday why he did not correct a voter who called President Obama a Muslim during a question and answer session, said that it’s not his job to police what voters say.

While asking a question about the economy, Bob Nolan of Lake Charles, La., told Gingrich that he believes the president is a Muslim and a student of Saul Alinsky.

“And I believe that it’s his policy to bring this country to its knees and ruin the United States of America.  Your comment?” Nolan said.

One man in the audience shouted, “I believe that too,” with a few audible claps in the room.

Gingrich responded by saying that he believes the president prefers power to prosperity and policies that centralize the government, but also affirmed to Nolan that he believed Obama is radical.

“If the price of that is that we’re poorer and we have fewer jobs and that we have less energy, that’s fine with him.  It’s a price he’ll pay,” Gingrich said.  “I agree with you about Alinsky.  I think he’s driven by a radicalism to remake America and he doesn’t frankly care what level of pain it costs the rest of us.”

In an appearance on On the Record with Gretta Van Susteren, Gingrich was asked why he didn’t correct the man.

“You know, that is such total baloney.  I was asked by a reporter immediately afterwards.  I said of course I accept that he’s a Christian.  The guy didn’t ask me a question. The guy got up and stated his opinion.  I don’t have an obligation to go around and correct every single voter about every single topic.  I also didn’t agree with him,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said that he accepts Obama is a Christian, but a Christian whose policies “apologize to Muslim extremists while they’re killing Americans at the same time that he’s waging war against the Catholic Church and against every right-to-life institution in this country.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio