updated 9/12/2006 12:16:49 PM ET 2006-09-12T16:16:49

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called on President Bush to refrain from using the phrase "Islamic fascists," saying it was offensive to Muslims and has nothing to do with global terrorists fighting the United States.

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"We must avoid using misleading and offensive terms that link Islam with those who subvert this great religion or who distort its teachings to justify terrorist activities," Feingold said Tuesday in a speech to the Arab American Institute on Capitol Hill.

The Wisconsin senator, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, said the label "Islamic fascists" makes no sense and doesn't help the U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

"Fascist ideology doesn't have anything to do with the way global terrorist networks think or operate, and it doesn't have anything to do with the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world who practice the peaceful teachings of Islam," Feingold said.

In seeking to explain the term, the White House referred to comments made last week by homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.

At a news conference, Townsend said, "What the President was trying to capture was this idea of using violence to achieve ideological ends - and that's wrong. Regardless of what label you pin on it, it is this form of radical extremism that really wants to deny people freedom and impose a totalitarian vision of society on everyone, that we object to."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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