Former President George W. Bush has warned President Donald Trump against his rhetoric and immigration orders on Muslims, asserting that framing terrorist organizations as religious is counterproductive for U.S. security.
On Feb. 27, Bush stated that it was a strategic mistake to view the War on Terror as a religious conflict.
"It's very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to, or not worship at all," Bush told Today. The former president added "a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely."
In 2001, Bush had asserted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 that extremist organizations were not representative of the Muslim world.
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"Islam is peace," Bush said at the time, according to The Hill. "These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."
The former president's view on separating terrorism from religion has received pushback from top officials of the Trump administration. In 2010, current White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon criticized Bush's remarks concerning the Sept. 11 attacks, stating during a radio interview "Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission."
In his latest interview, Bush noted that he still does not view terrorists as religious figures.
"You see, I understood right off the bat... that this was an ideological conflict and people who murder the innocent are not religious people," Bush continued. "They want to advance an ideology and we have faced those kind of ideologues in the past."
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Asked about whether or not he agreed with Trump's executive order on refugees and travel, Bush responded "I am for an immigration policy that's welcoming and upholds the law."
Trump's executive order had placed a temporary ban on the admittance of refugees to the U.S., with an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees. It had also placed a travel freeze on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. The executive action sparked protests across the country, with critics accusing it of amounting a Muslim ban.
After the original directive was hit with a national restraining order in the courts, the Trump administration moved towards creating a new executive order that would explicitly exempt permanent citizens from the travel freeze while also not singling out Syrians from the refugee hold, AP reports.
Trump is expected to sign the new order on March 1.
On the same morning that Bush offered his criticism of Trump's approach towards Muslims, he also voiced support for the new administration's efforts to defeat the Islamic State group.
"Go get them, because they can be degraded and defeated," Bush told Fox News. "It's very important, in my mind, that we do so that people know they can rely upon us and the people not only governments but people on the ground -- people who want to be free."