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4 Jun, 2009 13:22

“America is not, and will never be, at war with Islam” – Obama

American president Barack Obama has held out the branch of peace and called for a new beginning between the Islamic World and the United States during a keynote speech he has given at Cairo University.

President Obama made his remarks in a widely anticipated speech Thursday in Egypt – one of the world's largest Muslim countries. The address is seen as a way to improve relations between the US and the Islamic world after the attacks of September 11 and the war in Iraq.

“I’ve come here, to Cairo, to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world. One based on mutual interest and mutual respect. And one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and will never be at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a great threat to our security,” the US president has said.

A call to unite against terrorism

In his speech, the US president called on the Arab world to fight terrorism and extremism together. Obama says together they could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. He declared that, “This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,” AP reports.

Obama says the partnership between US and Islam must be based on “what Islam is, not what Islam isn’t”.

In a gesture of concession, Obama conceded at the beginning of his remarks that tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “two-state solution the only answer”

President Barack Obama said the Israelis and Palestinians must find a way to live side by side, peacefully as two independent states, arguing that this solution ultimately is the only way to end bloodshed and violence.

Obama recognized the long US alliance with Israel, built on historical cultural ties, calling the bond “unbreakable.” But he also said “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.” He mentioned they have suffered from losing homes and the “humiliation of occupation” in pursuit of their homeland. The US leader stated that his country will not turn its back on the Palestinians, noting that they need “dignity, opportunity and state of their own.”

He said America would support any efforts by any parties that recognize the legitimate aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

According to Obama, “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” And he called on Palestinians, particularly the Hamas faction, to “abandon violence” and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Obama on Iran: decades of mistrust will be hard to overcome

President Barack Obama says the United States will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve when dealing with Iran.

He said his country acknowledges its role in overthrowing the democratically elected Iranian government during the last century. So, Obama added, it’s going to be difficult to overcome decades of mistrust.

Addressing Iranian leaders, the US president has made it clear he wants to move forward and build a future together, with mutual respect and without preconditions. He noted that this would prevent a nuclear arms race in the region. However, he stressed that "no single nation should decide which countries have nuclear weapons”.

In his speech he also assured that the US seeks a world where no nations have nuclear weapons.

“No country should impose its rules on other states”

The current US president has made a clear sign to Muslim nations that he’s not going to follow suit with his predecessor – George W. Bush. In contrast to the former president’s administration’s efforts to “spread democracy worldwide” as it was then stated, Obama asserted that “no country should try to impose a system of government on another nation”.

America doesn’t presume to know what is best for everyone, according to its leader. He added that the US doesn’t presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.

However, Obama also said governments must reflect the will of their people, and that he believes all people want to be able to speak their minds and have a say in how they are governed.

Quoting the Koran

President Obama’s speech was laced with references to the Koran and his Muslim roots.

Obama quoted the Holy Koran as commanding, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” He said he shared that conviction. The president noted that while he is now a Christian, his father had come from a Kenyan family that “includes generations of Muslims.”

He pointed to Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, as the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, saying he took the oath of office on the Koran that Thomas Jefferson had kept in his personal library.

Obama also quoted from the Holy Bible and the Jewish Talmud.

“Women should have a right to choose”

In his address, the US president referred to the issue of women’s rights in Muslim countries and he stressed that, “women should have the right to choose whether they want to be equal with men”.

Obama noted that he doesn’t believe women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal: he stressed the fact that he respects women who choose traditional roles. But the thing he made clear is that, in his opinion, women should have the right to choose which role they prefer.

And, in connection with this, the US leader promised that his country will partner with Muslim states to support expanded literacy for girls and help young women pursue jobs through a micro-financing program.