Islam Is a Part of America, Says Obama
Cairo : US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to forge a ‘new beginning’ for Islam and America in a landmark speech to the world's Muslims, evoking a vision of peace after a smoldering cycle of ‘suspicion and discord.’
Obama laid out a new blueprint for US Middle East policy, vowing to end mistrust, forge a state for Palestinians and defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran.
‘So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace,’ said Obama, who was greeted with a standing ovation as he stepped up to the podium at Cairo University.
In the university's imposing domed Great Hall, Obama said the US bond with Israel, the source of much Arab distrust of the United States, was unbreakable, and rejected ‘ignorant’ rants by those who deny the Nazi Holocaust.
But, breaking from policies of his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama also rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to halt West Bank settlement expansion and reiterated his backing for a two-state solution.
‘I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,’ Obama said in a speech targeting the globe's 1.5 billion Muslims on television, the Internet and on social networking sites.
‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ said Obama vowing to fight ‘negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.’
‘But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America,’ he said, and touched on contentious regional like democracy and women's rights.
Quoting the region's three holy books, the Holy Qur’an, the Torah and the Bible, he evoked a future of ‘mutual interest and mutual respect,’ examining all sources of tension between America and the Muslim world.
‘ America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition — in fact, they overlap and share several principles,’ he said. He said extremists have exploited the denied rights of Muslims, adding that change cannot happen overnight.
However, the interests that the Muslims and the United States seek are more powerful and shared than the differences that exist between us, Obama said.
Islam is so clearly a part of America that there is a mosque in every state, he said, adding that nearly seven million Muslims are living in the United States.
‘ America is not and will never be at war with Islam,’ he said.
Specifically targeting young Muslims, Obama said, ‘I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning.’ ‘Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash.’
‘There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward.’