Monday, April 06, 2009

Barack Obama woos Muslims from secular Turkey.

Obama promised that, within his first 100 days, he would make a major speech within the the capital of a Muslim country, and yesterday he kept that promise by speaking in Ankara, Turkey.

And the message he came to deliver is one that the Muslim world has been waiting to hear.

Barack Obama extended an olive branch to the Muslim world from the floor of Turkey's parliament yesterday by declaring the US was not "at war with Islam" but instead sought its partnership to pursue common goals.

In his first visit to a predominantly Muslim country, he praised Islam's contribution to civilisation and said America's relationship with it must extend beyond fighting terrorism.

He is bending over backwards to reassure Muslims that his war is with al Qaeda alone, and that it is in their interests to join him in that war.

The difference between his administration and the one of George Bush simply couldn't be made any more obvious.

Acknowledging that the war had sown Muslim mistrust of the US, he said: "The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject but also to strengthen opportunity for its people.

"America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot be based just on the opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

The remarks were applauded by Turkish MPs during a 25-minute speech that was also witnessed by the top brass of the country's military. While Obama's visit to Turkey - the last stop of his week-long European tour - had been intended primarily to demonstrate Washington's commitment to a strategic ally, the sentiments were clearly designed to resonate beyond the chamber.

He really is doing all that he promised to do during his election campaign. All he has to do now is investigate the previous administration on suspicion of torturing terrorist suspects and none of us will be able to have a single gripe against the guy.

He's only 70 days into his administration and already he is delivering big time on the promises he made.

It's impossible to imagine Bush doing any of the things which Obama has been doing. The previous administration would have seen reaching out in this way as the personification of weakness. Neo-cons believed that the US ruled the world and that everyone should do as they demand.

Obama is being much more realistic. There's no talk of "crusades" from this guy.
Soli Ozel, an analyst at Bilgi University in Istanbul, said Obama had pressed "all the right buttons". "It looked at both sides of Turkey's identity, secular and Islamic," he said.
That's what this guy is very good at. He simply presses "all the right buttons". And that's much harder than he makes it look.

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