U.S. Muslims: Obama speech a first step in fixing ties
CAIRO (AP) – Invoking the Quran and his rarely used middle name, Barack Hussein Obama declared Thursday that America has a common cause with Islam and never will be at war with the faith – an overture intently watched by the Muslim world and welcomed in unlikely quarters. An Iranian cleric called the president’s speech “an initial step for removing misconceptions.”
Obama spoke at a seat of Islamic learning, his 55-minute address suffused with respect for touchstones of the religion. He said the time had come to “speak the truth” and “seek a new beginning.”
“America and Islam are not exclusive,” he said, “and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
Obama’s remarks were designed to reset relations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Yet he also called sternly for Israelis and Palestinians to live up to their obligations in seeking peace, demanded Iran bow to international demands to halt its nuclear weapons program and bid Muslim countries help in eradicating the threat of fundamentalist’ violence across the globe.
In doing so, the Christian son of a Kenyan Muslim father and a Kansas mother sought common cause in part by addressing his own roots – and using a middle name that opponents used against him at inflammatory moments in the presidential campaign.
“Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected president,” he said. “But my personal story is not so unique.” He went on to say the dream of America exists for all who go there – including nearly 7 million Muslims.
“This infatuation exercise with this black president of the United States who’s speaking about Islam will have a certain life cycle,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “But before that life cycle has dissipated, I think some concrete policies need to be laid out.”
Obama highlighted contributions of American Muslims, such as Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim elected to the House.