By Dan Froomkin
1:23 PM ET, 04/ 6/2009
Wrapping up his "I'm not Bush" overseas tour with a visit to Turkey, President Obama today decisively declared that the United States is not at war with Islam.
"I know there have been difficulties these last few years," he said in a speech to the Turkish parliament. "I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced. So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam. (Applause.) 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 all its people.
"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 United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country -- I know, because I am one of them."
And, in an obvious critique of Bush policies, Obama continued: "There's an old Turkish proverb: 'You cannot put out fire with flames.' America knows this. Turkey knows this. There's some who must be met by force, they will not compromise. But force alone cannot solve our problems, and it is no alternative to extremism."
Michael D. Shear, Kevin Sullivan and Debbi Wilgoren write about the speech for The Washington Post and note the mostly warm welcome for Obama in Turkey: "The Hurriyet newspaper...carried a banner headline, in English, that said, 'Welcome Mr. President.'
"'You are in a country that is a friend of the United States,' the front page text said. 'However, you broke our hearts during the last 8 years. Now it is time to fix it.'
"The newspaper, reflecting widespread Turkish desire for better relations with the United States, carried exuberant coverage of the visit, including a photo of one bakery owner who created a giant baklava, a sweet pastry, decorated with a likeness of Obama."
Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta write for The Washington Post: "Most Americans think President Obama's pledge to 'seek a new way forward' with the Muslim world is an important goal, even as nearly half hold negative views about Islam and a sizable number say that even mainstream adherents to the religion encourage violence against non-Muslims, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."