Obama speaks in Cairo

06/04/09 Mitch E. Perry
Alan Watts

In perhaps his most anticipated address in his young presidency, Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of 3,000 invited guests at Cairo University in Egypt today. The President said he seeks a new beginning between the U.S. and Muslims around the world.

Admitting that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, Obama referenced his Kenyan father coming from a generation of Muslims, and acknowledged civilization's debt to Islam.

But he said that violent extremism must be confronted in all its forms.

The meat of his speech focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He called Holocaust deniers baseless, ignorant and hateful.

Obama said that the Palestinians must abandon violence as a means to accomplish gaining a homeland. He also said that Israel cannot deny Palestinians right to exist, and again called on the Netanyahu Government to end the building of new settlements in the West Bank.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, Obama again made his call – derided by some analysts as sounding naïve- of seeking a world where nobody owns such weapons.

Obama said no style of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other, a clear knock at the Bush Administration’s goals in Iraq. But speaking in Egypt, an Arab nation known to suppress human rights of their people, the President said the freedom of speech and the right to free elections are not American ideals, but universal ones.

The President also focused on women’s rights and economic development in his speech. He said the U.S. will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls and micro-financing for young women to pursue employment.

Hossam Baghat, Executive Director of the Egyptian Intiative for Personal Rights, a human rights organization, told the NY Times that what was most remarkable about the speech was that Obama never used the term ‘terrorism’.

Ahmed Bedier, co-host of the WMNF program True Talk, which focuses on issues affecting the Muslim community, agrees.

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