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Hands Extended Across America

After the Crusades, the Renaissance

Ceyda Turan, 21 April 2009

“Let me say this as clearly as I can:
The United States is not, and will
never be, at war with Islam,” declared
President Barack Obama before the
Turkish Grand National Assembly. His
words came in stark contrast to former
President George Bush’s use of the
word “crusade” to describe America’s
post 9/11 efforts.

Barack Obama’s speech in Turkey was
a significant step toward mitigating the
tensions that have been stewing between
the United States and the Muslim world.
His remarks were a marked effort to
shake off the mistrusts that characterized
the Bush administration’s dealings with
Muslim countries.

“I also want to be clear that America’s
relationship with the Muslim community,
the Muslim world, cannot— and will
not— just be based upon opposition to
terrorism. We seek broader engagement
based on mutual interest and mutual
respect. We will listen carefully, we
will bridge misunderstandings, and we
will seek common ground. We will be
respectful, even when we do not agree.
We will convey our deep appreciation
for the Islamic faith, which has done so
much over the centuries to shape the
world— including in my own country,”
the President told the parliament in the
capital, Ankara.

“The United States has been enriched
by Muslim Americans,” he said. “Many
other Americans have Muslims in their
families or have lived in a Muslimmajority
country,” he continued, “I know,
because I am one of them.”
Time will tell whether Obama is going
to instigate a meaningful change in the
US’s policy in the Middle East. However
his words indicated a definite shift in
attitude and language; a belief that
conflict need not be the only basis for
a relationship between the US and the
Muslim world.

“The United States and Europe must
approach Muslims as our friends,
neighbours and partners in fighting
injustice, intolerance and violence,
forging a relationship based on mutual
respect and mutual interests,” Obama
told the EU-US summit.

Obama’s sentiments are in-line with
American aspirations: according to a new
Washington Post-ABC News poll “[the]
majority of Americans… said it is important
for the president to try to improve U.S.
relations with Muslim nations.”

America’s avowed friendship with the
Muslim world will not solely be limited to
rolling back the violent ideologies that
people of all faiths reject, quoth Obama,
“Our focus will be on what we can do,
in partnership with people across the
Muslim world, to advance our common
hopes and our common dreams. And
when people look back on this time, let
it be said of America that we extended
the hand of friendship to all people.”