Thursday, June 4, 2009

OBAMA : Cairo speech

President Obama emphasized and built upon the idea of co-existence and challenged fellow humans to think in those terms. It is a change he has talked about, and has now delivered to the world wide audience who is ready to absorb it.

God wants his creation to learn to accept the otherness of other and respect the uniqueness bestowed upon each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge to pave the way for peaceful co-existence. That is indeed God’s will and the message from Zarathustra, Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Mahavir, Jesus, Mohammad, Nanak, Bahaullah and many a spiritual masters in Native American, African and other traditions.

Here is the trancript of President Obama's Cairo speech followed
by comments from various writers.

Mike Ghouse
# # #

Office of the Press Secretary


Cairo University
Cairo, Egypt

1:10 P.M. (Local)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

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. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities -- (applause) -- it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores -- and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths -- but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace.

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future -- and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- (applause) -- I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)

So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations -- the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)

I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations -- including America -- this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities -- those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century -- (applause) -- and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

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. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

2:05 P.M. (Local)


  1. Obama is paving the way for a new true road map to achieve peace on earth. In less than an hour President Barak Obama managed to capture the hearts of over one billion Muslims worldwide by his charisma and reflections of the true American values.

    He closed his historic speech by saying “We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written”, and quoted the three dominant books of God:

    The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

    The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

    The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

    I’m proud to say as an American, as a Republican, and as a Muslim that God blessed America with this president.

    Just in case you miss President Obama’s speech, here is a web-link to the full speech in video:

  2. Jewish Voice for PeaceJune 4, 2009 at 5:52 PM

    Jewish Voice for Peace
    Dear Mike,

    We've asked Prof. Joel Beinin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Middle East History at Stanford University, to give us his impression on President Obama's speech in Cairo today. We're sharing his response with you.

    An articulate and charismatic President of the United States named Barack Hussein Obama giving a speech at Cairo University co-sponsored by al-Azhar, the most eminent institution of Muslim learning - now that's a new picture. Its enormous symbolic value is President Obama's biggest asset as he implements policy on the entire range of difficult issues he mentioned. The President stated, "Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail." This is an excellent basis for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    The President did not provide details on how the conflict should be resolved beyond general support for "two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security." But the meaning of this formulation is now contested due to its empty repetition by presidents and prime ministers whose actions and inactions have undermined it. Instead President Obama emphasized U.S. rejection of "the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," saying nothing about the future of those settlements already existing and their nearly 500,000 inhabitants. By limiting himself to an apparently pragmatic "first step," President Obama may have made his task harder. If he does not produce concrete results very soon on this limited, albeit it absolutely necessary, measure, then the potential value of his fine words in Cairo will soon diminish.

    Joel Beinin

    June 4, 2009
    Stanford, CA
    Obama speaking at Cairo University
    Jewish Voice for Peace

  3. From the Los Angeles Times
    Obama needs a 'big idea' for Muslims
    Up to now, the president's words about Islam might have struck the right tone, but they ring empty.
    By Robert Satloff

    June 2, 2009

    When President Obama speaks to the world's Muslims from Cairo this week, he'll touch, again, on the themes of respect and engagement. But he's delivered that message at least three times already, and this time his audience will expect more. They'll want to know whether Obama has a "big idea" about U.S policy toward Arabs and Muslims.

    For all his faults, President George W. Bush did have a big idea -- that a witch's brew of radical Islamist extremism and repressive autocracy was destroying Muslim societies, and that the antidote was democracy. Bush not only believed it, he translated this idea into real policies, such as promoting a democratic, Shiite-led government in Iraq and endorsing flawed elections in Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Some of his initiatives worked well and some were disastrous, but they all flowed from Bush's grand view of the situation.


  4. IIC Responds to President Obama’s Remarks in Cairo

    Islamic Information Center

    (WASHINGTON DC – June 4, 2009) The entire globe is anxiously awaiting the Muslim world’s reaction to President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo, Egypt. The Islamic Information Center commends President Obama for taking the initiative to address the Muslim world in a productive manner. News reports have examined whether Muslims will accept his words and thus accept the new political philosophy espoused by the Obama administration. The truth is, however, that by and large each Muslim will likely have two simple reactions to the President’s speech: the first of which is that the President has made some truly wonderful remarks, and within his speech has demonstrated his respect for the Muslim people and the Islamic faith. He made references to the Holy Book of Islam, the Qur’an, he honored the rights of Muslims in America and around the world, and he vowed to move forward with mutual respect. The second likely reaction from Muslims will be based in pragmatism. The Muslim world is very familiar with the concept of verbal gestures of friendship, but as the President recognized, “no single speech” can change the world situation. Accordingly, while Muslims will react positively to the speech, eyes around the world will be watching for a change in policy.

    A change in policy regarding Arab monarchies and dictatorships is something Muslims will watch closely. It is a sad reality that there are a great many Arab governments that regularly oppress their native Muslim populations, especially along sectarian lines, in addition to other minority non-Muslim groups. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen actively persecute large segments of their populations, most often the sizeable Shia communities, as well as other Christian and Jewish minorities, in the name of fabricated sectarian ideologies, (that are not based in Islam). Despite this, the United States remains a proud friend of the Saudi Royal Family, has signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Bahrain, and has made Yemen an ally in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”. Obviously, these ties were developed well before President Obama came into office, but it is time to deal with the present and prepare for the future.

  5. Imam Feisal Comments on President Obama's Speech to the Muslim World
    The following is Imam Feisal's Opinion Piece published by The Washington Post.

    Obama's Opportunity in Cairo
    June 2, 2009

    As an Egyptian by parentage, a U.S. citizen by choice, a Muslim by faith and an imam at the mosque that is but 12 blocks from Ground Zero in New York City, I am pleased that my president, Barack Hussein Obama, is addressing the Muslim world Thursday from my hometown of Cairo.

    I have been working toward reconciliation between Muslims and the West long before 9/11. I have seen Americans begin to understand that the United States is not at war against Islam. I know how much Muslims want a comprehensive peace agreement in their region.

    I believe we are closer to some major breakthroughs now than we ever have been.

    I have just returned from a week in Iran, talking with people at the highest levels of Iranian government and politics. They are listening to the words of reconciliation that Obama has already made in his address in Turkey and in his March message to the Iranian people. They are looking for signs that those words will be translated into policy changes.

    They want to believe that the United States will respect them as a sovereign people. Based on what I heard, I am hopeful that no matter who wins the Iranian presidential election this month, there will be an opportunity for Iran and the United States to end 30 years of hostility.

    That's what makes this speech so important.

    Obama can craft the language of his speech in Cairo to open doors for rapprochement not only between the United States and Iran but also between Iran and the leading Arab countries – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – where Obama is visiting. It may be tempting for Obama to pit Arabs against Iranians to isolate Iran from the broader Muslim world. That would be a mistake.

    Sunnis and Shias must come together, cooperating on issues of peace, as well as economic and political development. Nothing good can come from Muslims fighting Muslims. Hard as it may be for many Americans to understand, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all oppose Taliban and al-Qaeda-style Islamic extremism.

    From the Gaza strip, through the West Bank, Iraq and Afghanistan and into Pakistan, a host of conflicts can be resolved with Iran working together with the United States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Only with such a united approach can peace and security for Israel and justice for the Palestinians be achieved.

    For President Obama, this could be a defining moment, much like President John Kennedy's 1963 speech. Less than 20 years after the United States fought the Germans, he stood in solidarity with them against Soviet injustice, saying "Ich bin ein Berliner" – I am a Berliner.

    Obama, with his Muslim and African heritage, with the years he spent as a child growing up in Muslim Indonesia, with his familiarity with black Muslims in Chicago, is in a unique position to talk with Muslims about peace and justice.

    Critics have said Obama is wrong to address the "Muslim world" because such a unified entity does not exist. But I know my mother and sister in Cairo, plus a billion Muslims worldwide, will be hanging on his words at this crucial moment.

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, an independent, non-partisan and multi-national project that seeks to use religion to improve Muslim-West relations.

    ( He is the author of "What's Right with Islam is What's Right With America."


    President Obama’s Cairo Speech is a Foundation for Mutual Recognition and Positive Engagement

    Source: ISNA

    (Plainfield, IN - June 04, 2009) The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) welcomes the new approach toward the Middle East and the Muslim world outlined in President Obama’s speech which he delivered today at Cairo University, Egypt. The language and tone of the speech, and the seven issues he addressed, provide a new and fresh start to improve relations with Muslim countries and address serious problems that threatens American security, prosperity, and standing in the world.

    We are particularly pleased with the President’s acknowledgement of the positive contribution the Islamic faith and Muslim peoples have made to world civilization, as well as with his recognition of the important contributions the growing Muslim American community has made, and continues to make, to America’s wellbeing and prosperity. It is refreshing to see President Obama shift the focus from differences among religious traditions to common values and aspirations.

    We applaud the president’s recognition of the problems Muslim American charities have been having and the hardship that resulted from the “rules on charitable giving” by federal agencies. We welcome his commitment to ensure that Muslim Americans can fulfill their zakat duty, a religious obligation to provide the needy with financial support.

    “President Barak Obama’s speech demonstrates that there is no essential dichotomy between America and Islam,” ISNA President Ingrid Mattson stated in response to the speech. “The vast majority of Muslims across the world share with Americans the same aspirations to political freedom, economic prosperity and security for themselves and their families,” she stressed.

    ISNA agrees with the president that violent extremism is a plague that threatens world peace and security, and stands fully behind his efforts to confront it and protect American life and property. We further commend him for recognizing that defeating violent extremism cannot be achieved by solely relying on military means, but that it requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses the grievances that give rise to anger, disillusion and discontent, including injustice, poverty, occupation, and dictatorship.

    We share with the president a belief in the importance of coming to terms with significant historical conflicts and injustices, including colonialism, the Holocaust and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. These events have placed our communities in various positions of conflict. Muslims, Jews, Americans and others have all, at various times, been hurt and have sometimes responded to injustice in ways that violate our own principles and values. We come to terms with the past not to be mired in the past, but to be able to move forward to work for peace. We welcome the recognition that the aspirations of the Palestinian people, like those of the Israelis, for security, dignity and statehood are legitimate.

    We agree with the president that the desired change in relations between the United States and Muslim countries will not happen as the result of statements and speeches, but welcome this vision of a new way forward. We commit to working with other Americans to take the necessary steps to translate his words with action.

    Finally, we appreciate the President’s recognition of the importance of interfaith cooperation for the common good. ISNA is committed to contribute our share for creating understanding, cooperation, and trust among Muslim Americans and their compatriot who follow other faiths. We have been engaged in vigorous interfaith dialogue for many years with Christian and Jewish communities, and we believe that at no time in the history of the United State has an expansion of this effort been so important to security and peace and prosperity.

    Louay Safi, ILDC Executive Director

  7. Omits Kashmir

    Quoting from the Qur’an for emphasis, President Barack Obama called
    yesterday for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims”
    and said together, they could confront violent extremism across the
    globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East.

    “This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,” Obama said in one of
    the world’s largest Muslim countries.Full text

    Excepts and comments
    In Al-Azhar 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. But breaking with his predecessor George W.
    Bush, Obama also rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to
    halt West Bank settlement expansion. He called for a complete halt to
    all settlement expansion.

    He reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli
    conflict.(However he did not say anything about return of Arab
    territory occupied by Israel illegally.)

    About the spread of democracy. Obama said: “No system of government can
    or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.(He knows that a
    democratically elected government in a Muslim country would demand
    immediate withdrawal of foreign troops and US bases in Middle East.)

    The US president renewed his offer of dialogue with Iran without
    preconditions. “It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we
    will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve,” Obama said.
    (But his criticism of denial of Holocaust was unnecessary. US attitude
    gives the impression that blaspehmous cartoons that injured the
    feelings of Muslims are alright as freedom of speech but not the denial of

    Concluding comment:
    According to leading analysts of Pakistan Rhetoric of Obama would
    make little difference. Any appreciable change in Muslim's perception
    of US would come after US foreign policy is truly based on supporting
    democracy, human rights and international norms of justice instead of
    double standards and deception and;

    (a) US pressurizes Israel to vacate all Arab occupied territory restore
    status of Jerusalem shifting back its capital,

    (b) formation of independent Palestine state,

    (c) US pressurizing India to agree to plebiscite in Kashmir according
    the old UN resolution,

    (d) Withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and Iraq and other
    US bases in Muslim world.

    (e) support freedom movements of Chechnia and

    (e) developing friendly ties with Iran, Syria and Muslims
    in other countries.

    Shah N. Khan

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Mr Obama,

    There are many good parts in your address to Muslims, which will be welcomed as well as debated at length in days to come. But I will like to ask just one question on the basis of the following part in your speech:

    “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.”

    America can avenge the killing of 3000 Americans by killing 2 millions of Muslims. Tell me how Muslims can and should avenge the killing of 2 million Muslim innocents by Americans. And remember, America killed Muslims not only after 9/11; it is directly or indirectly responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Muslims even before that (First war against Iraq, helping Saddam against Iran and Israel against Arabs). Are only the citizens of America human beings, not Muslims?

    Dr Javed Jamil

  10. CAIR Calls President’s Cairo Speech ‘Comprehensive, Balanced and Forthright’

    (WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/4/09) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group called President Obama’s historic address to the Muslim world today in Cairo “comprehensive, balanced and forthright” and said it may help reverse the deterioration in relations between the United States and Muslim-majority nations.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) hosted a live viewing this morning of the president’s speech for leaders and members of the Muslim community in the Washington, D.C., area. (CAIR chapters around the nation are holding similar viewings.)

  11. By Mona Eltahawy
    05 June 2009

    George Bush could never have pulled it off. Give a speech that comfortably hopscotched between hot potato subjects, deftly shift from self-criticism to demanding the same of his audience and get at least 30 applause breaks from a mostly Muslim audience in Cairo, Egypt? Not in a million years.

    How ironic that the middle name “Hussein,” which the U.S. right wing viciously used to paint Barack Obama as a “secret Muslim,” gave Obama what Bush never had — the benefit of the doubt of Muslims, if just for the 50 minutes of his speech.

    But that middle name sparked quite the fight between my heart — so easily charmed by his eloquence and intelligence — and my head, which holds Obama to a higher standard. I know he knows better.
    Here’s the breakdown of my heart vs. my head:

    As a Muslim in the U.S., my heart and head were united in delight that Obama highlighted the role of Muslim Americans. They bridge that divide of “us versus them” that so many of the Bush administration’s policies and rhetoric inflamed.

    Obama’s acknowledgement of Palestinian suffering touched my heart but my head wanted to hear concern for civilian casualties and suffering in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Obama’s revulsion at torture reassured my heart but my head immediately asked why he didn’t condemn torture in my beloved country of birth, Egypt — the host for his talk is a popular destination for renditions. Heart and head are furious that my country does America’s dirty work.

    Oh how he thrilled my heart by bringing up women’s rights but why, oh why, head demanded, did he have to keep mentioning headscarves every time he spoke of Muslim women?

    Yes education, small business loans and political involvement are all important for this Muslim woman’s heart and head but I wish Obama had assured the women and girls of Afghanistan that their rights would not be sacrificed for the sake of a ceasefire or truce with the Taliban or other violent extremists.

    Democracy greatly concerns both heart and head. Many Muslims around the world are upset with the U.S. because it supports dictators in many Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, where Obama gave his speech, and Saudi Arabia where he began his Middle East visit.

    So, Obama pleased heart with talk of the importance of the rule of law, freedom of expression, etc., but head wanted him to be as bold in condemning the repression of his hosts as he was in broaching those hot potato subjects that trouble the U.S. relationship with Muslims.

    Clearly, Obama will keep heart and head busy.

  12. Brit Tzedek v'Shalom,June 5, 2009 at 12:32 PM


    Diane Balser, executive director of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the
    country's largest Jewish grassroots peace movement, released the
    following statement in response to President Obama's speech in

    Pledge to build support for President Obama's pursuit of
    Israeli-Palestinian peace. Sign the pledge, "We've Got Your
    Back, Mr President."

    "Today in his historic address to the Muslim world from Cairo,
    President Obama made clear his commitment to renew US leadership
    in negotiating a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The current stalemate is not only unspeakably tragic for Israelis and Palestinians alike, but fans the flame of extremism across the region and thus threatens the United States' national security interests in the region.

    The usual suspects will likely rush to characterize the
    President's insistence that both Israelis and Palestinians
    uphold preexisting commitments -- including a complete freeze on
    all Israeli settlement expansion and a concerted effort by the
    Palestinians to end all violence and incitement -- as indicative
    of an historic realignment that threatens Israel's alliance with
    the United States. In truth, the single most pro-Israel thing an
    American President can do is to actively pursue a negotiated,
    two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as
    Israel's very future as a democracy and a Jewish homeland
    depends on it.

    The President made a persuasive case for the common interest in
    resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which extends beyond
    the two parties, to include the Arab countries, the United
    States and its allies around the world. As Americans, as Jews
    and as people deeply committed to ensuring Israel's prospects
    for long-term peace and security, we stand with the President
    and with all those willing to work in pursuit of a resolution to
    the conflict."

    Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
    11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
    Chicago, IL 60603
    Phone: (312) 341-1205
    Fax: (312) 341-1206

  13. It is one of the most powerful speeches in pluralism ever! This what brings the world towards justice and balance. He did not appease any one nor did he offend any one. He spoke what needed to be spoken.

    1. He acknowledge the inherent moderation in Islam.
    2. He stressed the need for a dialogue
    3. He assured the Israelis his support... Read More
    4. He was firm with the Israelis to stop settlements
    5. He was clear about Islam and America working together
    6. He shattered the neocon propaganda against Islam
    7. He was inviting every one to work for a better world.
    8. He was stunningly clear; Islam was not the problem
    9. He simply asked Muslims to be Muslims
    9. He asked the silent majority to take charge.

    The stereo typing that the propaganda machines portray Jews or Muslim has got to go. Both the people have the same apirations to live a normal life without fear, both need to understand each others need and not blame.

    Every thing we say or do should lead us to peace and security