America is not at war with Islam, asserts Obama

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America is not at war with Islam, asserts Obama

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Cairo:  Reaching out to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, President Barack Obama on Thursday called for a "new beginning" between the US and the Islamic world by ending the "cycle of suspicion and discord" and confronting "violent extremism" together.

In a much-awaited speech at the University of Cairo in Egypt, Obama said he had "come to Egypt to seek a new beginning between the US and the Muslim world," Obama made several significant remarks on the so-called clash of the civilization, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to women's rights.

"My father came from a Muslim family; I know civilization's debt to Islam," he said, striking an instant chord with the audience. 

The US President said: "America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Let there be no doubt that Islam is part of America."

"America is not and will not be at war with Islam."

To move forward, we must listen to each other, learn from each other and respect each other, says Obama. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, he pressed.

Starting his address with traditional Islamic greeting Assalaamu alaykum, which drew a huge round of applause from the jam-packed hall, Obama said "we meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world."

He conceded that "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."

"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect," the US President, on his first visit to Egypt, said.

In a candid confession, Obama admitted that "9/11 had led some in my country to view Muslims with fear and as being anti-human rights."  "Changes brought about by globalism made many Muslims view the West as hostile."

"9/11 was an enormous trauma for US, in some cases it led us to act contrary to our ideas...Al-Qaida killed innocents on 9/11, they still plan to kill; this is not an opinion, it's a fact."

"The Koran says whoever has killed an innocent has sinned against mankind," he said, adding, "Enduring faith of over a billion is more important than the narrow ideals of a few."

"US has international support to pursue Al-Qaeda," the US President said.

On the war Afghanistan, the US President said: "We did not go to Afghanistan out of choice, it was a necessity. Any nation that subjugates will eventually fail, we must engage in partnership."

"We are not seeking to create a permanent military base in Afghanistan."

He, however, said, "Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice."

"I believe Iraq is better off without Saddam; it has reminded US of the need to use diplomacy."

The US President announced that America will remove combat troops from Iraq by July and all troops by 2012.

On Iran, he said :"Rather than remain trapped in the past (with Iran) I am ready to move forward."

He announced that "Israel must recognise Palestine's right to a separate homeland." "America will not turn its back on the legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people."

Obama also touched upon the proliferation issue: "'No single nation should pick and choose which nation should hold nuclear weapons. None should have nuclear weapons, I have reiterated my commitment to the NPT." (With PTI inputs)


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