President Bush makes remarks during the re-dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center of Washington in Washington, Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush on Wednesday called on Muslims to reject violence and extremism, and predicted that the Muslim world will one day realize a future of freedom, prosperity and peace.
"The greatest challenge facing people of conscience is to help the forces of moderation win the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East," Bush said, citing "the rise of a group of extremists who seek to use religion as a path to power and a means of domination."
Such "betrayers of the true Muslim faith" claim falsely that America is at war with Islam, "when in fact it is these radicals who are Islam's true enemies," Bush said at the Islamic Center of Washington on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Prior to entering the holy site, the president followed Muslim custom and removed his shoes.
He said recent attacks on Muslim holy sites were intended to divide Muslims "and make them fight one another."
But most of the victims of violence in the Middle East have been Muslims themselves, he said, citing the bombing of a wedding reception in Amman, Jordan, a housing complex in Saudi Arabia, and a hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia.
"They claim to undertake these acts of butchery and mayhem in the name of Allah," Bush said. "This enemy is not the true face the Islam. This enemy is the face of hatred."
Bush said it is the duty of Muslims "to speak out and condemn this murderous movement before it finds its path to power."
Bush said he has "invested the heart of my presidency in helping Muslims fight terrorism," and expressed optimism about the course of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We believe the ultimate success of Afghans and Iraqis will inspire others who want to live in freedom as well," he said.
Bush said he has seen "stirrings of a democratic future" in other parts of the Middle East, but added that no one should expect immediate results. "It will take time for liberty to flower," he said. "A democratic future is not a plan imposed by Western nations. It is a future that the people of the region will seize for themselves."
But Bush said the United States and other nations will help those who labor under oppression and seek the freedom to live and worship as they choose.
"The free world hears you," he said. "America offers you its hand in friendship. We work for the day when we can welcome you into the family of free nations."
Bush announced that he will appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference who will "listen and learn from representatives from Muslim states and share with them America's views and values."
The OIC is composed of 56 Islamic states that promote Muslim solidarity in economic, social and political affairs.
Bush's comments were warmly received by the 185 guests who packed the mosque, said Imam Abdullah Khouj (prono: Coach), director of the center.
"The people I could hear were very pleased with his remarks concerning Islam and the Muslims," Khouj told CNN in a telephone interview.
Bush's visit was his third to the mosque. He first visited it on Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and again during the Muslim feast of sacrifice called the Eid.
"I believe, personally, that his first visit was great to help people understand and distinguish between Islam and some people who act out of the religion of Islam and claim to be Islams," Khouj said.
Asked whether he supports Bush's position on Iraq, Khouj withheld judgment. "I haven't been to Iraq, so I can't give a clear picture of what's taking place," he said. Still, he added, "War is not desired, and we hope that people can resolve their conflict through peace and try to be tolerant towards each other."