‘We want a new start with Islam’ Obama tells 1.2 billion Muslims
Exorcising the ghosts of eight years of George Bush and the alienation of the 1.2 billion Muslims on the planet, President Barack Obama has urged a new beginning in relations between Islam and the West.
“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the US and the Muslim world based upon mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama said in his long-awaited speech from Cairo, something he had promised as a candidate.
Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality, Obama said, adding that problems must now be solved through partnership and progress must be shared.
President Bush’s war on terrorism has been widely perceived in the Muslim world as a war on Islam. But Obama made it clear that America is not fighting the faith of 1.2 billion people across the globe including 7 million of his own fellow citizens.
“In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam,” said the U.S. president whose father was a Muslim from Kenya.
Emphasising the bond of friendship between the U.S. and Israel as unbreakable, Obama also sent a clear signal that the United States will pursue the goal of a two-state solution to end the Mid-East conflict.
“America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own,” he said. “The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states .. in peace and security.”
Obama bolstered the aim of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty saying he wants to see a world where no nation holds nuclear weapons. The NPT has been described as hypocritical in that the nuclear club denounces those nations that aim to produce them, while refusing to part with their own nukes.
Surprisingly, Obama continued the emphasis on democracy promotion that was central to the so-called Bush doctrine. “And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.”
European nations have downplayed democracy as vital to interstate relations, preferring order rather than chaotic democratic reforms.
Obama also spoke about Islam’s long tradition of tolerance – a historic fact stretching back to the time when Islamic forces captured the whole of North Africa and Spain, heralding, in the opinion of some experts, the European rennaisance.
He emphasized the rights of women, saying daughters can do as much for a nation as sons can.
Obama said he hoped for shared economic prosperity.
Although Egypt has a far smaller population that the most populous Islamic nation – Indonesia – the Middle Eastern country wields power as a bridge between Palestinians and Israelis. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is seen as central to building trust with Muslims who think the U.S. has been too one-sided in its relationship with Israel and ignored the rights of Palestinians.