Small Wars Journal

The Cairo Speech (News - Opinion)

President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World from Cairo on 4 June 2009.

Full Text of Barack Obama's Speech to the Muslim World - Wall Street Journal.

Obama Addresses World's Muslims - Paula Wolfson, Voice of America. US President Barack Obama says it is time for a new beginning in relations between America and the world's Muslims. The president said they should unite to confront violent extremism and promote the cause of peace. President Obama says, after decades of frustration and distrust, it is time for candor ... for dialogue ... and a fresh start. "I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition," the president said. He spoke in a packed auditorium on the sprawling campus of Cairo University. But his intended audience was far broader: more than one-billion Muslims around the world. "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," President Obama said. "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." The president spoke of his own perspective as a Christian with Muslim relatives who spent part of his youth in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. "That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it is not," he said. " And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear." President Obama said problems must be dealt with through partnership, and tensions must be faced head on. He said extremists are playing on their differences, and are killing people in many countries of many faiths. "The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few," President Obama said. "Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism, it is an important part of promoting peace."

Obama Cites Shared Principles in Reaching Out to Muslim World - Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service. President Barack Obama reached out to the Muslim world today, urging a new beginning that rises above historical tensions and is built on commonly held principles that reject violence and promote cooperation and stability. Obama, speaking at Cairo University in Egypt, told a predominantly Muslim audience that violent extremists have exploited longstanding tensions and misunderstandings to further divide the United States and Muslims around the world. The attacks of Sept. 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," he said. This has bred more fear and distrust." Emphasizing that the United States is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam," Obama said it will relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security." Obama dismissed any notion that the 9/11 attacks were justified. Let us be clear: al-Qaida 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," he said. And yet, al-Qaida chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale." With affiliates around the world, Obama said, these extremists are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated," he said. These are facts to be dealt with." Obama said his first duty as president is to protect the American people, and said he won't compromise that responsibility as he works to promoting international cooperation in standing up to violent extremists. The president pointed to the situation in Afghanistan as an example of America's goals and the need for the United States and the Muslim world to work together.

Obama Chides Israel, Arabs In His Overture to Muslims - Laura Meckler and Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal. President Barack Obama waded into the heart of the Middle East conflict Thursday by forcefully reiterating his support for a Palestinian state and admonishing the Arab world to pursue peace with Israel as he made his long-awaited appeal to mend the rift between America and the Muslim world. In a wide-ranging speech before students at Cairo University that celebrated the common values of the two cultures, Mr. Obama called for a "new beginning" in the relationship. "I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear," he said to repeated applause in the ornate-domed Great Hall. "But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. " Most notable in the hourlong address was Mr. Obama's reiteration of his support of a state for Palestine, and his rejection of continued construction by Israel of new settlements on disputed land. The policy puts Mr. Obama in direct conflict with the new government in Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The president also demanded that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Obama Calls for End to Discord with Muslim World - Christi Parsons and Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times. President Obama's sweeping call Thursday for a "new beginning" between the United States and the Islamic world was greeted by Muslims of many countries as a conciliatory gesture aimed at setting aside suspicion and moving ahead on problems that include terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The 55-minute address at Cairo University, which was widely translated and sent across the Internet, did little to sway hardened enemies such as Iran. But it did find qualified support from unexpected voices, such as members of the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip and Islamist intellectuals in Pakistan. Many listeners were disappointed that Obama did not lay out detailed changes in US foreign policy. Nevertheless, interviews from Egypt to Turkey and Iraq suggested that they believed he was distancing himself from the George W. Bush era and was prepared to engage the Islamic world with openness and trust.

Obama Calls for New Beginning With World's Muslims - Scott Wilson, Washington Post. President Obama asked Thursday for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" in a speech that urged Islamic nations to embrace democracy, women's rights, religious tolerance and the right of Israel to coexist with an independent Palestinian state. In an address designed to change perceptions of the United States in the Arab Middle East and beyond, Obama reviewed the troubled historical legacy between Islam and the rest of the world, from colonialism through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the uncertainty surrounding cultural and economic globalization. "So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity," Obama told an audience of hundreds gathered in a domed hall at Cairo University. "This cycle of suspicion and discord must end." Even as Obama spoke, however, the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera aired new excerpts of an audiotape message issued yesterday by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, urging Muslims to "brace yourselves for a long war against the world's infidels and their agents."

Addressing Muslim World, Obama Pushes Mideast Peace - Jef Zeleny and Alan Cowell, New York Times. In opening a bold overture to the Islamic world on Thursday, President Obama confronted frictions between Muslims and the West, but he reserved some of his bluntest words for Israel, as he expressed sympathy for the Palestinians and what he called the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation." While Mr. Obama emphasized that America's bond with Israel was unbreakable," he spoke in equally powerful terms of the Palestinian people, describing their plight as intolerable" after 60 years of statelessness, and twice referring to Palestine" in a way that put Palestinians on parallel footing with Israelis. Mr. Obama's speech in Cairo, which he called a timeless city," was perhaps the riskiest of his presidency, as he used unusually direct language to call for a fresh look at deep divisions, both those between Israel and its neighbors and between the Islamic world and the West. Among his messages was a call for Americans and Muslims to abandon their mutual suspicions and do more to confront violent extremism. But it was Mr. Obama's empathetic tone toward the Palestinians that attracted the most attention in the region and around the world.

Obama: 'New Beginning' with Muslims - Christina Bellantoni, Washington Times. Seeking no less than a restart of relations with the Islamic world, President Obama on Thursday conceded past wrongs, quoted from the Koran and even invoked his full name - all in an appeal to Muslims from Indonesia to Morocco to unite around common ideals of rights, freedom, security and respect. In calling for a "new beginning," he singled out some Islamic nations as examples of religious tolerance, he delivered a stern lecture to Holocaust deniers, doubters of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Palestinian terrorists, and he harked back to the glory of Islamic civilizations through the centuries. Using his 55-minute speech - the longest of his young presidency - to about 2,500 people at Cairo University, Mr. Obama said that rather than a fundamental disagreement, the U.S. has always held deep respect for and good will toward Islam, dating back to one of the nation's earliest documents, the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli.

Obama Delivers Strong Attack on Israeli Settlements in Speech to Muslim World - James Hider, The Times. Before a crowd of robed Muslim clerics, dissidents who have served time in jail, students from across the region and besuited government officials from authoritarian regimes, President Obama made an historic speech yesterday to try to mend America's battered ties with the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. From such a diverse audience he received as many cheers for espousing women's rights as he did for quoting the Koran or championing the principle of a free Palestinian state. Mr Obama made obvious attempts to win Muslim hearts and minds - reminding them that Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic, and praising the Islamic world as a beacon of learning during Europe's Dark Ages - but refused to shy away from the difficult issues of religious extremism, human rights abuses and nuclear proliferation that plague the region.

Barack Obama Attempts to Recast Image of America in Muslim World - Richard Spencer, Daily Telegraph. In a speech given to an audience at Cairo University but directed at more than 1 billion Muslims around the world, he said a "new partnership" would stress common principles between civilisations. "So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the co-operation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity," he said. "This cycle of suspicion and discord must end. "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 speech, which he had promised to make even before he was elected, was the centrepiece of his tour of the Middle East which also included talks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. He met the long-serving President Hosni Mubarak before going on to the university, and ended the day with a trip to the Pyramids. Some even compared his mission to the celebrated Cold War speeches of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in Berlin.

Barack Obama Reaches Out to Muslim World - John Lyons, The Australian. Barack Obama vowed last night to forge a "new beginning" for Islam and the US in a landmark speech to Muslims around the world, evoking a vision of peace after years of "suspicion and discord". In what may be a defining moment of his administration, the US President laid out a new blueprint for US Middle East policy, vowing to sweep away mistrust, forge a state for the Palestinians and defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran. In the domed Great Hall of Cairo University, Mr Obama warned that the US bond with Israel, the source of much Arab distrust of Washington, was "unbreakable". And he rejected "ignorant" rants by those who deny the Nazi Holocaust. But in a sharp break from the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Mr Obama - who was greeted with a standing ovation as he stepped up to the podium - rebuked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

In Obama's Speech, A New Approach to Middle East: Candor - Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor. Did President Obama in his Cairo speech signal a new toughness towards the Arab-Israeli peace process? Past presidents have opposed Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In Cairo, Mr. Obama said plainly that the US will not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. Past presidents have supported the two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian nation living side by side. In Cairo, Obama insisted that each side needs to recognize the other's right to exist. With these and other points, Obama was not so much making new policy as forcefully explaining the implications of policies that exist, says Frederick Barton, codirector of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "His speech had this element of candor that his immediate audience [in the Middle East] is not familiar with," says Mr. Barton. Obama's 55-minute address was heavily promoted by the White House, both in the US and the Middle East. Given its importance, it is almost certain that Obama and his speechwriters considered carefully every phrase, nuance, and emphasis.

Obama Hints Acceptance of Elected Islamists - Eli Lake, Washington Times. President Obama hinted Thursday that the United States would for the first time accept the results of Middle East elections won by Islamist parties. In contrast to the Bush administration, which boycotted groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah even after they performed well in elections, Mr. Obama said, "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." Those words carry particular significance because on June 7 Lebanon is expected to hold an election where Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group, could win a plurality of votes. It was also a message to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, whose members running as independents won 88 seats - 20 percent of the Egyptian national assembly - in 2005 despite widespread cheating on behalf of the government.

Using New Language, President Shows Understanding for Both Sides in Middle East - Glenn Kessler and Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post. There was no mention of "terrorists" or "terrorism," just "violent extremists." There was the suggestion that Israeli settlements are illegitimate and the assertion that the Palestinians "have suffered in pursuit of a homeland." There were frequent references to the "Holy Koran" and echoes of Muslim phrases. President Obama, who aides say spent many hours "holed up" in the past week revising his Cairo speech, clearly believes in the power of his oratory to win people to his point of view. In many ways, he used his address to promote American values, but his efforts to use new language to recast old grievances have already prompted debate and consternation in some quarters. At the same time, he avoided specific complaints about the lack of freedoms in the Muslim world. Instead, he spoke of the need to obtain concrete political goals, such as the fair administration of justice. He made no mention of his host, President Hosni Mubarak, a snub surely noticed by Egypt's autocratic ruler of nearly three decades.

Varying Responses to Speech in Mideast Highlight Divisions - Michael Slackman, New York Times. On one level, President Obama's speech succeeded in reaching out to Muslims across the Middle East, winning widespread praise for his respectful approach, his quotations from the Koran and his forthright references to highly fraught political conflicts. But Mr. Obama's calibrated remarks also asked listeners in a region shaken by hatred to take two steps that have long been anathema: forgetting the past and understanding an opposing view. For a president who proclaimed a goal of asking people to listen to uncomfortable truths, it was clear that parts of his speech resonated deeply with his intended audience and others fell on deaf ears, in Israel as well as the Muslim world. Again and again, Muslim listeners said they were struck by how skillfully Mr. Obama appropriated religious, cultural and historical references in ways other American presidents had not. He sprinkled the speech with four quotations from the Koran and used Arabic greetings. He took note of longstanding historical grievances like the stain of colonialism, American support for the Iranian coup of 1953 and the displacement of the Palestinian people. His speech was also embraced for what it did not do: use the word terrorism, broadly seen here as shorthand for an attack on Islam.

Divided Region, Diverging Reviews for Obama - Dale Gavlak and Joshua Mitnick, Washington Times. President Obama's much-heralded speech on US relations with the Islamic world provoked sharply differing reactions on both sides of the Middle East's great divide. Many Israelis worried that the president had said too much, while many in the Muslim world cautioned that Mr. Obama's talk Thursday of a "new beginning" is less important than what his administration will do to reshape America's image and policies in the region. The Muslim world wants to see "implementation, not just talk on the Palestinian issue," said Jamil Abu Bark, spokesman for Jordan's powerful Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement. "It doesn't need a speech, but action. We want action on the ground." But Mr. Obama's call for an even-handed treatment of Israeli and Palestinian grievances brought a wary response from the government of conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outright rejection from the Israeli settlers on disputed lands, whom Mr. Obama again singled out for criticism in Cairo.

Many Muslims Praise Tone of Speech, but Call for Action - Maragret Coker, Wall Street Journal. Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised US President Barack Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday, but they had more of a mixed reaction to the substance of the address. Mr. Obama won over many Muslims for delivering what many viewed as a respectful address - peppered with the moral message Muslims receive at weekly homilies and the straightforward talk they rarely get from their own leadership. "The Holy Quran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth,' " said Mr. Obama, quoting the Muslim holy book in his hour-long speech at Cairo University. "That is what I will try to do." Ahmed Farouk, a 25-year-old movie producer, listened in an Egyptian coffee house near the university. He pumped his fists when Mr. Obama quoted the Quran and smiled when the president talked of the need to cooperate in the battle against extremists, the quest for democracy and women's rights, and the need for respect and understanding between Americans and Muslims.

Muslims Not Sure President Obama's Speech Means Real Change - Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times. He came with goodwill and pretty sentences, but the question kept echoing: Were they enough? President Obama's much-anticipated speech Thursday to the Muslim world sought to dissolve the mistrust between Islam and the West by highlighting his personal appeal as he called for an end to intolerance and violence and a move toward a shared future. It was a carefully textured blend of history, the president's experience with Islam and the need to quell religious extremism. Few world leaders today can match Obama's eloquence and charisma, and it was clear that the president wanted the world's 1.5 billion Muslims to see America through the prism of his enormously popular image. The words were a start, but the question here remains: Is Obama the face of genuine change in US foreign policy or will he merely offer a sparkle of promise before he is overwhelmed by troubles from the bombed alleys of the Gaza Strip to the mountains of Afghanistan?

In Cairo, Praise for Obama's Remarks - Howard Schneider, Washington Post. The fact that Barack Obama chose Egypt as the location for Thursday's address to the Muslim world endeared him to the locals, who are always proud to host a foreigner and even prouder when it shows off their history. The fact that he came to downtown Cairo, instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, told them he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he started sprinkling his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. "I didn't expect him to go this far" in confronting the region's core problems, said Tarek Ali, 44, a driver for a government agency. "He really seems to want to move forward." That initial conclusion seemed unanimous among the crowd of men gathered at a local coffee shop to watch Obama's Thursday speech. Although Obama was blunt about the United States' "unbreakable bonds" with Israel, that statement was quickly followed with others about Palestinian "suffering" since Israel's founding in 1948 and the need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a Palestinian state.

Palestinians, Israelis Have Mixed Reactions to Obama Speech - Luis Ramirez, Voice of America. It was a speech to which many Israelis were not looking forward to. President Barack Obama had stepped up his calls for a total freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and for Israel to allow Palestinian statehood - things that Israel's leadership refuses to do. In the end, the speech had something for everyone. He pleased many Israelis by calling for Palestinians to abandon violence, saying the Islamist militant group Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist, and calling for the prevention of a nuclear standoff with Iran. Many Palestinians were pleased to hear the US leader repeat his call for an end to Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, and for Israel to realize the only way to resolve the conflict is - in his opinion - the two-state solution. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the speech was a good start towards a new policy that recognizes the suffering of the Palestinians. Political analyst Mahdi Abdel Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs in East Jerusalem says the speech contained no new ideas, but went a long way to making people feel good about the new US administration's policy in the Middle East.

'Israel Shares Obama's Hope for Peace' - Herb Kienon, Jerusalem Post. Israel cautiously applauded US President Barack Obama's sweeping speech in Cairo Thursday, even as it was gearing up for tough negotiations with the Americans in the coming days over how to transform some of the rhetoric into a program. During the 56-minute address to some 3,000 invited guests at Cairo University, Obama reconfirmed and pledged continued US support for Israel, but was uncompromising in his demand for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and called for a "stop to settlements." Regarding the settlements, Obama - to perhaps the loudest applause he received during his address - said, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

President's Words Worry Israel's Backers - Barbara Slavin, Washington Times. During a major address in Egypt on Thursday, President Obama reached out in friendship to Muslims around the world and distanced himself from Israeli policies more than any other president in decades. Although Mr. Obama said the US bond with Israel is "unbreakable," analysts pointed to subtle but significant shifts in language that indicated that Mr. Obama was not in lock step with the Israeli government on issues including Iran and Palestinian grievances. "This is a very different approach than other presidents have used," said Lee H. Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and co-chairman of the 2006 Iraq Study Group. Mr. Obama won praise from many analysts, including Mr. Hamilton, for speaking out in Cairo against Muslims who deny the Holocaust or indulge in anti-Semitic behavior.

Supreme Leader of Iran: Muslim Nations 'Hate America' - Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin, Washington Post. Iran's supreme leader dismissed President Obama's speech at Cairo University Thursday, saying the Muslim world continues to "hate America." And he criticized the United States and its allies for asserting that Iran seeks nuclear weapons, which he insisted are forbidden under Iran's brand of Islam. Speaking shortly before Obama delivered his address, in which he called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that "beautiful speeches" could not remove the hatred felt in the Muslim world against America. "People of the Middle East, the Muslim region and North Africa - people of these regions - hate America from the bottom of their heart," Khamenei said at a gathering to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and Khamenei's predecessor as the predominantly Shiite Muslim country's supreme religious leader.

The Cairo Speech - New York Times editorial. When President Bush spoke in the months and years after Sept. 11, 2001, we often - chillingly - felt as if we didn't recognize the United States. His vision was of a country racked with fear and bent on vengeance, one that imposed invidious choices on the world and on itself. When we listened to President Obama speak in Cairo on Thursday, we recognized the United States. Mr. Obama spoke, unwaveringly, of the need to defend the country's security and values. He left no doubt that he would do what must be done to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban, while making it clear that Americans have no desire to permanently occupy Afghanistan or Iraq. He spoke, unequivocally, of the United States' unbreakable" commitment to Israel and of why Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. He was also clear that all of those listening - in the Muslim world and in Israel - must do more to defeat extremism and to respect the rights of their neighbors and their people.

Barack Hussein Bush - Wall Street Journal editorial. One benefit of the Obama Presidency is that it is validating much of George W. Bush's security agenda and foreign policy merely by dint of autobiographical rebranding. That was clear enough yesterday in Cairo, where President Obama advertised "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." But what he mostly offered were artfully repackaged versions of themes President Bush sounded with his freedom agenda. We mean that as a compliment, albeit with a couple of large caveats. So there was Mr. Obama, noting that rights such as "freedom to live as you choose" and "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed" were "not just American ideas, they are human rights." There he was insisting that "freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together," and citing Malaysia and Dubai as economic models for other Muslim countries while promising to host a summit on entrepreneurship. There he was too, in Laura Bush-mode, talking about the need to expand opportunities for Muslim women, particularly in education. "I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles," he said. "But it should be their choice." Mr. Obama also offered a robust defense of the war in Afghanistan, calling it "a war of necessity" and promising that "America's commitment will not weaken." That's an important note to sound when Mr. Obama's left flank and some Congressional Democrats are urging an exit strategy from that supposed quagmire.

The Cairo Appeal - Washington Post editorial. President Obama was the first to say yesterday that one speech cannot erase the accumulated hostility and mistrust between many of the world's Muslims and the United States. But his address in Cairo offered an eloquent case for American values and global objectives - and it looked to be a skillful use of public diplomacy in a region where America's efforts to explain itself have often been weak. Mr. Obama uttered verses from the Koran, spoke about the success of US Muslims, debunked extremists' claims and defended the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. He returned repeatedly to the theme that most of the differences between Muslims and the West can be eased by "a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another and to seek common ground." That idealistic sentiment, which lies at the heart of the president's political ideology, may or may not prove true with respect to challenges such as the Israeli-Arab conflict and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. But Mr. Obama's address - which was broadcast live on al-Jazeera and other popular satellite channels - offered a stout defense of core US interests while managing to sound very different from the post-Sept. 11 Bush administration. Mr. Obama said that "the first issue we have to confront is violent extremism," but he did not use the word "terrorism" and exonerated Islam from responsibility.

Obama Gives a Bush Speech - Washington Times editorial. President Obama sounded like he was channeling President George W. Bush during his Cairo speech yesterday. Much of the substance of Mr. Obama's address, titled "A New Beginning," sounded like the same old song. One could easily remove the biographical references, redact a few of the sentences that are clearly critical of specific Bush administration policies, and pass it off as old Republican talking points. Check Mr. Bush's remarks at the Islamic Center of Washington on Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, in which he said, "America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country." Likewise, Mr. Obama stated, "Let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America." Mr. Bush believed that, "Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes." Mr. Obama upped the ante, noting that "the US 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."

Obama in Cairo: Something Old, Something New - Christian Science Monitor editorial. President Obama billed his Cairo speech to the Muslim world as a "new beginning." In some important ways, it did signal a fresh start. But there's also no getting around the "old" work that needs to be done or the abiding principles that must guide that work. Mr. Obama's speech had almost the feel of an inaugural address -- historic sweep, lofty idealism, American vision, and a call to action, but aimed at an audience of more than a billion Muslims. His very biography lends a fresh credibility to ideas and policies that are actually not so fresh. It's hard to imagine any of his predecessors, for instance, quoting and referencing the Koran so extensively and being so enthusiastically applauded for it. Obama attempted to blow away the cobwebs of blame and finger-pointing that have collected on the Middle East peace process. "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," he said. That includes the United States, which needs to reclaim its role as an honest broker, including applying pressure to Israel that it has been reluctant to use in the past.

Obama in Cairo - Los Angeles Times editorial. Rhetorically, at least, President Obama moved mountains in the land of Muhammad. Speaking from Cairo University to the world's estimated 1.5 billion Muslims, the American president made a frank appeal for a new relationship based on mutual respect. Language matters, and this was an eloquent address of historic and moral importance meant to turn the page on strong-arm politics and ultimatums. The first US president of color and the son of a Muslim, Obama brought his personal credibility to the podium, not to apologize but to acknowledge the country's past mistakes and to set an agenda for the future. Certainly words alone will not bring peace to the Middle East or persuade America's enemies to abandon their anger. As Obama noted, "recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task." Still, this was a new beginning. In recent years, US relations with Muslim nations have been shaped largely by hostilities, from the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington to the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been an open wound bleeding distrust and anger. While vowing to confront violent extremism and defend Americans, Obama sought to end that era with a declaration: The United States is not at war with Islam.

America and Islam - The Times editorial. Few speeches have been as eagerly awaited in the Middle East as President Obama's address in Cairo University to the Muslim world. And few speeches have been as carefully crafted, as powerfully delivered or as comprehensive in charting a new beginning between civilisations locked for the past decade in destructive mutual incomprehension. If the President's promises could be delivered, if his aspirations could be achieved and if his respectful tone could be adopted across the region, many of the toxic issues roiling the Middle East might become less intractable. One speech, as he acknowledged, cannot alone remove the obstacles or soften the animosities that have built up over decades. What it can do is to lay out intent, demonstrate engagement and win the respect of an audience that has come to expect only the worst from America. Mr Obama has shown extraordinary strength and sensitivity in understanding how America's soft power must be used to achieve what eluded the use of military might. From the opening traditional Muslim greeting to his final and apposite quotations from the Koran, the Torah and the Bible, he showed himself at ease with Islamic culture and customs. He referred to his own name, Muslim forebears and personal memories of Muslims in Indonesia and Chicago; he reminded his audience - and the West - of civilisation's debt to Muslim learning; and he dismissed the crude stereotypes that America and the Islamic world now have of each other with telling examples of past tolerance and engagement.

A Masterly Speech from Barack Obama, But was Anyone Listening? - Daily Telegraph editorial. Mr Obama sought to shake both sides out of their self-pitying trough of prejudice and despair. His speech amounted to a blast of militant common sense. But will it make any difference? He identified some glaring ills of the Muslim world, particularly anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and an absurd view of America as a pantomime villain. Tragically, these are not the preserve of an extremist fringe: they have entered the mainstream. An ordinary visitor to Egypt soon finds that many people genuinely blame the CIA or Mossad for the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001, a crackpot conspiracy theory that is widely believed across the Muslim world. The American leader has shown his willingness to repair his country's relations with Islam. He has spelled out the steps that both sides must take to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. But Israel's hardline government has already spurned his call for a freeze in settlement expansion. Will Mr Obama quietly accept this veto - or exert direct pressure on Israel? The harshest question of all, however, is for the Middle East itself: does this region have the capacity for rational dialogue?

Obama's New Era in International Diplomacy - Daily Star editorial. Barack Obama's long-awaited address to the Muslim world has proven to be an event of global magnitude, and a dramatic, international projection of the bully pulpit of the American presidency. Obama's speech in Cairo was an unprecedented display of rhetorical power, coming in an important context: the last eight years of neoconservative policy based on the clash of civilizations mentality. This week, the leader of "the free world" projected his country's peaceful side, to around 1.5 billion people in 50 countries. The address was totally in line with Barack Obama's personal history; it was also a significant departure with traditional politics, just like the precedent-setting choice by the American electorate last November. Obama has committed his country to solving the Arab-Israeli struggle and its own long-simmering confrontation with Iran, as part of an agenda that includes confronting violent extremism and boosting democracy, religious freedom and women's rights. This can constitute a new era in international diplomacy, provided that Washington follow up with determination and evenhandedness.

Great Expectations - Jerusalem Post editorial. It was with mixed feelings that we watched President Barack Obama deliver his extraordinary speech to the Muslim and Arab worlds in Cairo yesterday. Critics will see the speech as incredibly naive. Yet it was also the most meaningful and coherent attempt by an American leader since 9/11 to dissociate the world's 1.5 billion Muslims from demagogic elites preaching worldwide jihad and hatred of non-believers. It is not insignificant that Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden took the president's power to persuade seriously enough to try to preempt him by issuing fresh rants. It must have galled them to see hard-line imams and Muslim Brothers listening attentively in the audience. A Gallup Poll, taken before the speech, showed 25 percent of Egyptians approving of the US under Obama, compared to 6% under George W. Bush. In A city where Holocaust denial is part of the popular culture, it was good to hear Obama telling Muslims: "Six million Jews were killed," and saying otherwise is "ignorant, and hateful." To no applause, he proclaimed: America's ties with Israel are "unbreakable."

The Chicago View - David Brooks, New York Times opinion. President Obama's Cairo speech characteristically blended idealism with cunning. At one level, the speech was an inspiring effort to create a new dialogue in the Middle East. Obama came to a region in which the different groups have their own narratives and are accustomed to shouting past one another. Obama, as is his custom, positioned himself above the fray and tried to create a new narrative that all sides could relate to. In the Obama narrative, each side has been equally victimized by history, each side has legitimate grievances and each side has duties to perform. To construct this new Middle East narrative, Obama strung together some hard truths, historical distortions, eloquent appeals and strained moral equivalencies.

The Settlements Myth - Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post opinion. President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating." An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone - Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining.

Can Barack Obama's Soothing Rhetoric Douse the Muslim Militants' Flames? - Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph opinion. Short of declaring his intention to convert to Islam, it is difficult to imagine what more Barack Obama might have said during his speech yesterday to demonstrate his seriousness about healing the poisonous rift between the West and the Muslim world. After invoking the traditional Muslim welcome - "Assalaamu alaykum" or "Peace be upon you" - the President proceeded to explain how, despite his being raised a Christian, his father's family came from generations of Muslims. He acknowledged the enormous debt Western civilisation owes to Islam, from the development of algebra to the elegant refinement of calligraphy, and stressed the Islamic faith's espousal of religious tolerance and racial equality. He reminded his audience at Cairo University that John Adams, one of America's founding fathers, wrote that "the United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Muslims".

Negotiating for the Other Side - Danielle Pletka, Washington Post opinion. Yesterday in Cairo, President Obama underscored his desire to "move forward without preconditions" and negotiate with Iran "on the basis of mutual respect." So far, no takers from Tehran. But even if there were, the bottom line is that whether it's Iran, North Korea or the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there has been little to show for years of jawboning. Worse, the history of such negotiations should give pause to the public and to Congress. Too often, US negotiators have become unwitting advocates for their adversaries, getting so caught up in the negotiating process that they cannot countenance its collapse - or their own failure - even in the face of undeniable evidence that the discussions are not succeeding. Consider the task of Dennis Ross, Obama's "special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia." From 1993 to 2000, as President Bill Clinton's "special Middle East coordinator," Ross brought enthusiasm and deep knowledge to the job. But the peace process he hoped to facilitate was constrained by US laws that reasonably required the Palestine Liberation Organization to abandon terrorism and to recognize Israel before receiving aid from the United States.