American Morning

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June 4th, 2009
07:29 AM ET

Obama: U.S. 'not at war with Islam'

Palestinian boys listen to President Barack Obama as he delivers a speech at Cairo University, at their home in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on June 4, 2009. Getty Images
Palestinian boys listen to President Barack Obama as he delivers a speech at Cairo University, at their home in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on June 4, 2009. Getty Images

By Ed Hornick

(CNN) - President Obama spoke Thursday of the tensions between the United States and Muslims, saying "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," said Obama, delivering what the White House billed as a major speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt.

The president reiterated a point he made in an April speech in Turkey: "In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam. 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."

Obama also said the U.S. does not want to keep its troops in Afghanistan. "Make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. 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."

Obama hopes to start "a new chapter of engagement" between the United States and the Muslim world, speechwriter Ben Rhodes said Wednesday before the president's address.

This engagement would be based on mutual respect and interest, and Obama plans to speak "openly and candidly" about issues that have caused "tensions in the Muslim world," Rhodes said. "This can't be just [about] what we're against but what we're for."

Obama asked staff members to "cast a wide net" to gather a range of viewpoints, including those of Muslim-Americans, as he was preparing his Cairo comments, Rhodes said.

But just as the White House was laying out its vision, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden purportedly issued another statement Wednesday, saying U.S. policy in Pakistan has generated "new seeds of hatred and revenge against America."

Palestinian security forces listen to US President Barack Obama as he delivers a speech at Cairo University, at their headquarters in the West Bank city of Jenin on June 4, 2009. Getty Images
Palestinian security forces listen to US President Barack Obama as he delivers a speech at Cairo University, at their headquarters in the West Bank city of Jenin on June 4, 2009. Getty Images

Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera aired segments of what it said was a "voice recording by bin Laden," which was believed to have been recorded weeks ago during an exodus of civilians because of fighting in northwestern Pakistan. Pakistani troops have been taking on militants in the Swat Valley.

The message also likened Obama's actions to those of past administrations.

Obama is proving that he is "walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increasing the number of fighters and establishing more lasting wars," the tape said.

"This basically means that Obama and his administration put new seeds of hatred and revenge against America. The number of these seeds is the same as the number of those victims and refugees in Swat and the tribal area in northern and southern Waziristan."

In his Thursday speech, Obama also touched on U.S. relations with Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian battle.

Addressing the nuclear tensions between United States and Iran, he said: "That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. 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."

On a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama said, "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."

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Filed under: Middle East
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Bernice

    Edisto... That is a very good thought! Truth is a very beautiful thing!! One day, just maybe, this administration will find a way to use a little of it! He tells lies in a way that is sweet! You are just being suckered! Decieved! He told soooo many lies! The truth is, we better start looking into the actions, and NOT the sweet speaches! His actions are those of a man trying to bankrupt our country, on purpose! WAKE UP before it is too late to salvage our soon to be HUGE losses! This is nothing more than a take over! You will all lose your rights as you know them, while sitting by listening to the sweet speaches! GO HANNITY! GO RUSH! They are right! We are being misled! The figures just do not add up! We had better start saving our own country! Just because this president says it, does not AT ALL make it the truth! You are just sooo gullable!

    June 5, 2009 at 5:43 am |
  2. allam prabhakar

    I salute the American people for electing a man of vision.He could move so many hearts by his candid speech.We are sure that his actions will be firm and positive for the good of humanity.
    Todays world is more challenging than the past and the world is fortunate to have a messiah of faith and goodwill.
    My deepest compliments to American people and in particular to OBAMA-the leader of leaders!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  3. Viewer

    I was moved by the US president speech.The US does not need to show a Big stick,the World knows they have ONE,and they will always be the Country of the FREE World & ONLY World Power. And to all the people who dose not think he's on the right path Finally!!,GOD help U,cause U've been living a Dark life.
    In my Country we would Love him to be OUR President. i.e A President of the people & for the people.
    I wish U success Mr.President

    June 4, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  4. Debra Callihan

    How incredibly refreshing to have an American leader show real respect, empathy and fairness to the Arab world.
    Obama has shown great courage in trying a new approach to solve some of the most pressing problems facing the Middle East. I hope that all sides in the region and here in the U.S. will support his efforts.

    June 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  5. Bruce Gordon

    I worked in Saudi Arabia in the 1980's and know how important some little things are to Muslims. Obama started his message with "Salaam Alekoom", which means "Peace be with you" - the way Arabs routinely greet each other. It is from both the Bible and the Koran, and shows our common desire for peace - but you'd never hear George Bush say that! Obama then went on to quote "the Holy Koran". Americans always refer to the "Koran", but Muslims almost always refer to it as "the Holy Koran". Little things mean a lot in showing mutual respect and understanding.

    June 4, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  6. Charmaine Garel

    In President Obama's message to Muslims he said violence, is "not how moral authority is claimed, that's how it is surrendered". A message for all, I believe. We may need a few thousand of this guy to change this world but, it may work as well if we all let the Obama in us surface. My admiration grows all the time.

    June 4, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  7. mohamad

    Well the last say will be for the Zionist Lobby that controls the government. Just like you said Obama is just trying to win the hearts and the mind but unfortunately Muslims are not stupid they know the game well and the GAME is over and the American ERA as well. Young people in Muslim World know that the U.S. is behind their problems. Who support governments that jail and deny the people their basic rights? U.S. does. Look at the Egyptian last election people were being killed just trying to vote and what the U.S. did nothing and look at the Palestinian election under European monitors still was not accepted because it will be a government that will not sell itself to the world and the Abbas gave away everything to Israel and still no peace. Also, who made the problem for the Palestinians if God gives land away and Obama said that the Bible says we all are children of God then why God is doing this to these people? Then he is not a god so it Bin Laden's because he is not a Muslim. America is an economic power and its weak economy makes Obama say speeches like this because in 2020 and 2050 we will major changes. Muslims had enough because the U.S. supports all these government and Obama is just trying to save America.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  8. Jonathan Roberts

    Several of the political contributors on CNN asserted that President Obama should have criticized the state of human rights within Muslim countries more harshly. President Obama always begins a debate by focusing on the commonalities of the parties involved. Seriously, how would it look if President Obama focused on human rights violations in Muslim countries while the United States of America tortures Muslim individuals and denies them due process in Guantanamo? The answer: hypocritical.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  9. Dispassionate1

    Today's speech in Cairo has convinced me of one thing. Barak Obama is uniquely skilled to bring about a time of peace that no other personality could possibly achieve. He has the mind to see past the small distractions and focus on the final destination. And he has the words to reach the hearts of people to bring them together. This is a crucial time when a collaborative global effort is what is needed to solve our current problems.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  10. Ed Baker

    Sholom Aleichem is a traditional Hebrew and Yiddish greeting and means "peace be with you" was the pseudonym adopted in 1883 by Solomon ...

    so:

    nice to here/see President Obama sticking up for America.
    didn't see very many if any young people (students) in audience at the University..

    first thoughts:

    -autocrats don't change
    – the speech was generally
    disingenuous, factless, naive
    and
    pandering
    – seems like "we" have given up on human rights (not one word about China's treatment of people when Hillary
    or that econ guy Geithner when just there)

    so, is this all about US debt and oil!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  11. Bodiddly69

    President Obama's speech is long past due. He most definitely drew stark comparisons between his ideology and the ideology of Al Queda. Persuasively, POTUS re-established the Rousseau principles of social contract, and held out that "contract" to the Muslim world. It is the US's common ground, and inserted into the people of Islam. However...

    I am reminded to well another US President, who had the courage and popularity to those who listened (no, not JFK, bless his heart), that of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was very, very popular in Europe during WWI and the aftermath. So much so, that European leaders took a dislike of him, pounded upon their gavel of self interest and soveregnty. For example, when Woodrow read to an immense crowd in France his principles for Versailles (Article 10 of the Versaille Treaty) – the French were wildly supportive. However, it was the French PM, Clemenceau, who rudely interjected into the political arena about "Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, "Even the good Lord contented Himself with only ten commandments, and we should not try to improve upon them." England's PM Lloyd George confimed the insult with his own. Later, due to the weakness and avarice of the two men – the path to WWII was firmly established.

    I think what Wilson failed to do was to stand up and continue his rhetoric to the People. Rather, his rejection by the autocracy of leadership in Europe angered him and broke his health. Let us hope that POTUS has the steel necessary to deliver the message and continue to drive his message even when Middle Eastern leadership screeches back like the hags of pre-WWII, the Clemenceau's and George's.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:54 am |
  12. Susan

    It was so refreshing to hear a speech of unity and to watch it be well received. I was proud to have Obama represent the US today. The US does not need to show a big stick, the world knows we have one. Obama delivered a clear, factual message. His words were uplifting, portrayed the true meaning of what it means to be an American. He neither apologized or compromised, he did shove American ideals down others throats, he spoke of the ideals of all people throughout the world who value equality, peace and respect. It is hopefully a new beginning.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:52 am |
  13. Steve

    I believe that communication on both sides is the way to go. President Obama is doing a wonderful job in communicating
    to the Arab world that we are not at war with muslims but will not
    tolerate radical killing of innocent men, women and children. It
    is a refreshing change from the previous threatening Bush
    Administration.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:52 am |
  14. Syed

    Diversity is the beauty of this world. Think what would happend if there were no religion in the world but one, what if there were only blacks or whites people in the world, what if there was only one language in the world...that would be the worst thing! We all should respect each other's religions, language, cultures etc becz thats the beauty of this world! Lets be united, be togather and getrid of poverity, diseases, hatred from the world! If we all love each other, no one will even think about wars and so there will be no nuclear bombs and other mass distruction devices.

    Lets appreciate each other! Lets spread love and peace!

    Syed
    Pakistan.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:48 am |
  15. Roy D. Schickedanz

    Such a speech by President Obama before the University of Cairo, could never have been given by the previous President and his administration of cowards, whose acts and deeds representing criminals at large thinking that they are above and beyond all laws and should be indicted and prosecuted to the full extent of our laws and the violation of the Oath of Office, constituting the destruction of our country implying sedition and treason, rendering the only proper punishment of such crimes.

    Today is great day in American history.

    President Obama will go down as one of the greatest presidents of our country, representing the values of our Constitution, leaving the world wondering how we ever elected a Bush, a true tragedy of a democracy.

    Thatguy

    June 4, 2009 at 8:47 am |
  16. Sue Kienle

    I am a 58 yr. old, white, 3rd generation, american female and would like to point out that it come across as very much "holier than thou" when you keep talking about the muslim judge who said it was "ok to hit your wife if she spent too much money" when – in my own lifetime in the USA – it was considered OK just a few decades ago! We have only been "enlightened" for a very short time in our own country. And, I might add, still have a long way to go in providing EQUALITY to women [ie: equal pay for equal work! and more. . . ] We HAVE come a long way – but only very recently!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:45 am |
  17. J.K. LELEITTO SANG

    Obama's speech to Muslim world is very appropriate and has come at the right time. As an American born and raised in a third world country where Muslims and Christians live in peace.The same can happen between America and Islam world if the US addresses the issue of Palestine without being seen to favor Israel.
    America shouldn't also let Israel be destroyed by Iran and others who are on evil mission to obliterate it.
    As a Christian I stand for peace for all people and protection of Israel.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:40 am |
  18. Pat Wheelock

    I commend President Obama for starting a process that is more even-handed in the middle east and puts pressure on all parties to move from their stuck positions. He is taking a risk in bringing up these issues and now it is time for the Arabs and Israelis to take some action. I believe Obama's willingness to confront complex issues in a non-ideological manner is a refreshing change from the past and in our country's interest as well as the world's interest.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  19. Dianne

    Powerful message Mr. President. Bravo! Truly a new beginning for World Peace.

    I listen to American Morning commentators discuss the Women's Rights segment of your message. I would like to remind those commentators that your mother's life work was 'micro finance' and she taught you well. It was just a though commentators maybe just caught on to the idea.

    Women's Rights are a work in progress, some nations have progressed more than others, however, none have reached full equality. All one has to do is look at the "Halls of Power" in most democracies & women are grossly under-represented. Look at America, Canada, Great Britain & European countries, there are very few women.

    Look at the "hulabaloo" over a woman's appointment tot he U.S. Supreme Court.

    We ALL have a long way to go!

    Thank you, President Obama for invoking the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you have them do unto us." Your message of mutual understanding & respect will be well received around the World.

    You are brilliant & eloquent.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  20. Ray Colten Karim

    Asad,

    Sorry muslims truly cannot unite. I am a former muslim, Islam and freedom are incompatible. I am not any uneducated person from the midwest just writing what I hear from people. I have studies the Quran and Islam. Muslims that claim to be friends of freedom and the US are either liers or non-beliving people who call themselves muslims.

    ISLAM and freedom is incompatible. John Roberts, Mr. Ed Rollins, Fawaz Georges you all know its the truth!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  21. Rada

    It was said on the show that Iran's democracy is that with a "small d". Not the same as "our democracy". Obama focused on the fact that people choose their democracy. That's what made him different than Bush who emphasized "our democracy and freedom" instead of the people's version of freedom and having that choice.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:32 am |
  22. asad

    Hi,
    this is a great day for america . Finally someone has the guts to be honest and truthful about muslims and america.Great job Prezident.Obama!!
    I disagree with Mr.Rollins .I think he is following the same old mind set which we had been seeing for the last 50years. Its time to bring a change. Muslims, Jews and christians! Lets Unite

    June 4, 2009 at 8:29 am |
  23. Ray Colten Karim

    I was born in raised up in the middle east. I am an American. I do not know why we need to bow down them in the middle east. I know his speech will probably make us safer in the US, but I think it will give the people in a middle east a idea that the US is weak.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:29 am |
  24. Jim

    Personally, I consider myself to be 'orthodox' catholic, but I've learned to not be comfortable with putting any kind of limitations on the Almighty. In fact, I'm quite comfortable giving Islam all the due respect of a divinely revealed religion. My congratulations to President Obama for doing what he can to improve relations with Muslims.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  25. Rob

    Part of the solution : 3, 2, 1, Palestine-Israel Conflict

    I get my idea from the Irish conflict where the women finally said, “ Enough boys, we are tired of loosing our children and all the pain and suffering. You have had 200 years and now we are taking control.” Maybe they did not say this in so many words, but the apron strings had input toward settling many of the “boys” and now we have a large measure of peace in Ireland.

    My plan is simple. Please recognize this is an example and not an engineered budget. The size of the benefits can be changed as seems best at time of implementation.

    Plan:
    I would give cash financial aid to every person in Palestine, $3.00 per day per person. The money would be paid each week and women would receive the benefit. When a bombing occurs the aid drops to $2.00 per person for a period of 2 weeks. If a second act of violence occurs in this 2-week period the benefit drops to $1.00. The benefits never drop below $1.00. As the periods mature the benefits return to $2.00 and $3.00. The key here is women go to collect the benefits, the family appreciates the moneys and over time the connection between acts of violence will couple with less food on the table. Maybe the community will decide violence is not the best way to obtain their goals. Maybe some will speak out about net benefit of a suicide bombing. At any rate it is a system you can employ to augment and other programs and it contains both a carrot that is in view every week. A carrot that is seen on the dining room table every day. A carrot that gets smaller when bad behavior from community takes place. A carrot that political leaders do not get to steal.

    The program is cheaper than bombs. The program is low risk to initiate. The programs grow the family unit. The program avoids the political central power structure.

    I have lived and worked in Israel. I am not Jewish. I am an engineer and I do believe simple solutions have greater chances of working versus complex programs. This program is simple to explain and simple to envision the motivational feature.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  26. shad koros

    Gandi, Mandela, Luther king.... succeeded without use of force, one war leads to another war and not peace, It is okay for President Obama to pursue the carrot stick, peradventure it will yield better and lasting results, unless we are scared that His success will keep others in the cold!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:25 am |
  27. Bobby

    Why hasn't President Obama said anything about the soldier who lost his life in Little Rock Arkansas to a terror act. Yes it was a Terror act but our own Commander in Chief has said nothing about it

    June 4, 2009 at 8:22 am |
  28. Rob

    What a contrast Obama is to Bush. This comparable time during Bush's Presidency we were all snickering about if Bush was looking presidential , if he knew where latin america was or if he knew how to say the names of 3 or 4 international leaders.... it was pathetic. Now, with Obama we have a man who is smart, speaks well , works hard, has fresh ideas, is putting pressure on Israel to be part of the solution. I lived in Israel and know there are many who do not support the current bullying policy they follow now. It is the Israel version of Bush ...! No too smart and sure a loosing game.

    I am proud again to be an American again.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:22 am |
  29. Mitchel

    Hello friends and family,

    I watched the President's speech live, and I was impressed by his speech. He showed knowledge, and awareness of history, and the issues facing us as humans. Good stuff. As a guy who is an educated, spiritual optimist in my heart and soul... it was a great speech. I agreed with his points. But as a pragmatist... knowing our history well, I am cautious.

    Every culture, and nation state is different in their thinking in history, education, history, and traditions. And like usual in our history, there are men, and even women, who will want to keep their power in politics, and money, and their selfish personal greed and gain. Hence they have the power, and will, to keep those things. And if we push harder, or they think that we are inciting true thought and discussion, then they will be quick to put this thought down, by stronger centralized, autocratic, and religious government. This is to say, that they will give a "push-back". They will limit their women, men, and children to keep their power, and even kill their own people, or other people of other countries, and make war, to keep their power.

    Power is the ultimate "heroin" to those egoists' who have a need to have it in order to serve themselves in their lack of spirituality. Lack of this spirituality, is what makes all of our worse dictators, and evil people that have "peppered" our history. These people will not "go silently into the night". So, I love his words, but making this beautiful idea of human spirituality, and unity a reality, is another thing. I wish him, and all of us well. But, I have my doubts. There are too many men and women who hate and want to keep their power, and who would rather die and take everybody with them, than have true peace. This is our human dilemma.

    Love Mitchel

    June 4, 2009 at 8:19 am |
  30. Dani

    Yay for Obama! But WHY donate money?!?! Don't we have enough economic strain here?? Shouldn't we focus the money on the US and not other countries for a little while? It's an amazing gesture of kindness on the US and Obama's part... but we need to get back on our feet financially before we start handing money out again.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:15 am |
  31. ffranny

    One of your Republican commentators said President Obama "spoke softly and carried no stick."

    Wrong.

    The biggest stick is a carrot stick - commitment to work for security, prosperity and a better future for everyone.

    That's more powerful than the bluster of the previous administration.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:06 am |
  32. edisto

    The truth is a beautiful thing!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  33. Bobby

    I am upset with President Obama saying nothing about the soldier who lost his life in Little Rock, Arkansas over a Terror act.

    I disagree with giving Iran with any nuclear program. If he lets this happen, the world is in danger.

    June 4, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  34. Derek

    Contrary to what Obama said, Muslims didn't invent the magnetic compass.

    p.s. Islam is not a peaceful religion either

    June 4, 2009 at 8:01 am |
  35. RJ

    for as long as we show the Arab world total devotion to the Israelies as if they do nothing wrong then we will be at war of sorts with the Arab world! The Arab world contrary to American belief has plenty of good reasons not to like the Israelies and America needs to wake up to this fact whether they like it or not!

    June 4, 2009 at 7:56 am |
  36. Tysha Scott

    How lucky are we to have, for a change, an intelligent President – President Obama! A man who pocesses grace, dignity and a sense of peace! I thought President Obama Speech in Cairo Egypt this morning was great – a start. Ofcourse one speech will not completely change everything. Certainly the former Republican regime ruined any progress we made in relations with other Nations and it will take an intelligent President like Obama to begin to heal these wounds. We are so lucky as a NATION!

    June 4, 2009 at 7:40 am |