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The Not-Bush Tour in Turkey

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."

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 6, 2009; 1:23 PM ET
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What an encouraging sign by extending a hand with diplomatic grace, and toward peace and understanding across a chasm exacerbated by our bullying under Bush/Cheney. Turkey has been a mostly secular country since Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s reveolution, unlike our own which is filled with thousands of sects, cults, religious beliefs and faiths - many very intolerant of the beliefs of others of their own general faith ("My God is the True God....") Be proud of Obama, as he is really being the true American values ambassador, not the religious warrior that the US right wing evinces.

The nasties will criticize him, as they always do of those who are different from themselves in party or faith or whatever. Others will say he is a Muslim, but he is not. Religious, ethnic, racial, tribal, geographic differences always are a basis for bias and prejudice, but also for strengthening our understanding of what it means to be human, a still evolving species that seems hell bent on self destruction.

Posted by: enough3 | April 6, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"and a sizable number say that even mainstream adherents to the religion encourage violence against non-Muslims"

I'd love to see that "sizable number" broken down into Christians, Republicans, and both. I suspect the results would be revealing.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 6, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Jon Cohen could not resist the snide "sizable number" comment. I bet the sizable number is made up entirely of neocons and some hard core Republicans. Fact is that the vast majority of Americans were disgusted by the Gaza atrocity and are supporting Obama and his push for a fair Israeli- Palestinian peace.

Posted by: qualquan | April 7, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

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