Obama speech: The full transcript

The full transcript of the speech delivered by President Barack Obama at Cairo University
I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 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. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

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. 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; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. 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. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. 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.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda 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. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. 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.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But 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.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. 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.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.

40 Responses to “Obama speech: The full transcript”

  1. June 4, 2009 at 12:21

    BBC, how could you? You built up Obama’s speech and then you cut in just when he arrived at the hard part. Commenting before it is over? What kind of journalist would do that?

  2. 2 VictorK
    June 4, 2009 at 12:34

    A speech exemplifying all the faults of Obama’s liberal-left, one-worldist view:
    *the belief that a solution exists for every problem and that government action is the solution to all problems;
    *dishing out unsolicited advice to other countries about how they should order their social and political affairs (do Muslims lecture the US on, say, abortion?);
    *babbling about diversity while showing a complete inability to respect traditions that are alien and contrary to his own multicultural liberalism (eg women’s rights);
    *pursuing policies (global engagement with Islam) despite lacking a mandate for them from the American public (and do ordinary Americans really think Islam is part of the US?);
    *a conventional and (consciously?) mistaken view of Islam’s history and nature;
    *deploying untruths to flatter his audience, support his world-view, mislead the ignorant, & ‘win hearts and minds’ (Islam led to the Renaissance? Yeah, right.);
    *affected boldness fronting real cowardice (the Saudi King as an ally in the fight for…religious tolerance! liberalism at its delusional worst.)
    But this kind of frothy rhetoric does no harm. Check in a year from now: the speech won’t have made a blind bit of difference to anything in the real world.

  3. 3 Jennifer
    June 4, 2009 at 14:32


    Thanks for your response. I am always in shock at the total lack of realistic discussion in Obama’s speeches.

    I’d also like to say Obama is the President of the United States of America. He has an obligation to the people here, not other people around the world.

    On ABC news, they did a segment last night with some people in Cairo. Many said that they were expecting this or that…..why are you expecting anything from the AMERICAN president!

  4. 4 Sue
    June 4, 2009 at 15:04

    Thank-you President Obama for speaking truth without judgement for both our country and the rest of the world, and declaring violence solves nothing, conversation is where it’s at.
    I continue my total support for you, along with my prayers.

  5. 5 Auspicious
    June 4, 2009 at 15:25

    President Obama has clearly displayed that he is serious about mending relations with the Arab world. I believe the US will no longer use its millitary might but persuade the Arab world to a negotiation table.
    I’m hoping for the best!

  6. 6 gerald anderson
    June 4, 2009 at 15:26


    I listened to the speech on BBC WorldService radio. Just when he was getting into specifics (the most important part) BBC interrupted and had a panel discussion on “how’s he doing so far”. I couldn’t believe it!

    I ended up switching to CNN I don’t think I’ve ever switched from BBC to CNN in order to get decent news coverage before!!!

  7. 7 Tom K in Mpls
    June 4, 2009 at 16:14

    More of the same old stuff. At least he verbally recognizes that the US can not dictate policy for other countries. That in a world of conflicting ideal, the most we dare do is help the peaceful find common ground and help other countries stop violence.

    Now, how much will actually get done? To me it sounds like a typical election campaign speech. I don’t expect to see any real change in the world but at least he is unlikely to make things worse like the Bushes. Also we are looking at extreme differences in fundamental beliefs that are up to four thousand years old.

  8. 8 Fazeela from Trinidad
    June 4, 2009 at 16:28

    Why is the world expecting anything from an American President? Surely you jest, Jennifer.

    Unrealistic? Mr Obama is reaching out and speaking words of hope and optimism. Americans should be proud of their President. He is making an effort to understand the world around him more than other Presidents and I daresay many Americans.

  9. 9 Morf
    June 4, 2009 at 17:08

    Many Americans might not acknowledge Islam’s influence on modern culture, but with 6-7 million Muslims within US borders, it becomes a bit preposterous to pretend that they do not exist.

    And yes, any quick perusal of history will show that the beginning of Europe’s Renaissance was based on Muslim traders and the translations of the Greek philosophers that the West had lost for centuries.

    And “unrealistic”? Surely obsessing about centuries old slights is the most unrealistic and self-destructive of all!

    Whether we like it our not – we share the world – and the future – we Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and other religious traditions.

    We can fight forever. Or we can live up to our best and highest selves and the best of our scriptures that call us to a new time and a new way of living fully in a “peace that passes all understanding”.

    Obama’s call is not mere noise and empty rhetoric – it is a call – and a reminder – of the deepest longings of individual hearts and human history.

  10. 10 Jennifer
    June 4, 2009 at 17:13

    Re: Why is the world expecting anything from an American President? Surely you jest, Jennifer.

    We are in turmoil ourselves. Just look at our economy and job market. We are in no position to be a guiding light for other societies. We need to be fixing what is broken here in the US.

    Before Obama addresses any issues with other countries, with the exception of national security on our behalf, I think we should be stable ourselves. We are not. Even if Mr. Obama did anything to help the muslim people; it would never be good enough.

  11. 11 Graham, in BC
    June 4, 2009 at 17:21

    Whether we like it or not Jennifer america is an imperial nation therefor he like Bush has influence in the behaviour of other nations. Sometimes that influence is at the end of a gun barrel, or the persuasive words and actions of your president. You chose which the world benefits from. For myself lets hear the words, lets have a discussion. We have seen for the last eight years what the previous approach has led to.

  12. 12 Tom D Ford
    June 4, 2009 at 18:04

    “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. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

    This is the key part that will anger Conservatives all around the world, because they depend on fear-mongering and divisiveness to keep people in the easily manipulated mental state of fearfulness of the demonized “other”.

    There are relatively few people in the world who benefit from keeping people fearful and divided against each other and these Conservatives will do everything they can to sabotage American efforts to encourage people to celebrate our similarities as part of the Family of Mankind. To see each other as fellow humans and not demons.

  13. 13 Joseph A. Migliore
    June 4, 2009 at 18:06

    He eloquently references the historical accomplishments of Islam, and how we in the West are in debt to Islam for the intellectual knowledge it has provided us over the centuries, in areas of philosophy, medicine and science. Prior to modernity, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together, side by side in communities. This is part of the problem today, the creation of the Nation-State and borders being established in the Middle-East, borders that have forged enemies, divided peoples who once cherished the same neighborhoods and communities.
    I am extremely proud of Barack Obama, for having the insight and courage to deliver a historical speech, in such a symbolic place which represents the origins of Islamic knowledge and culture. This was a good first step forward, in a attempt to introduce himself, as a President, and in letting the Muslim community know where he stands, but most importantly let them know that there is a “new kid on the block”, and that our policies have changed, the message was “we want to be friends” and improve our relationships.
    He would of made a profoundly important statement, if they could of only had Barack visit the GAZA territory and the Palestinians while in Cairo!

    The two state solution is the only hope for peace in the region, the “real problem is this will prove difficult, extremely difficult”
    This is a good first step, but we will need to implement actions which complament Barack’s speech!

  14. 14 Andy
    June 4, 2009 at 18:10

    Well said Victork. Obama is trying to offer solution where he is not authority. You cannot put christianity and islam on the same platform. Christianity claims exclusivity and it should be treated as that. He suffers from chronic relativism.

  15. 15 anita
    June 4, 2009 at 18:13

    obama did a great job.

    he was attentive to the conflicting and earnest aims of many parties. i especially like it that he highlighted the issue of women’s rights.

    but i have two issues with what he said:

    he speaks of muslims and americans. why not muslims and christians or arabs/palestinians/jews/turks/persians (middle eastern folks) and americans?

    i think it’s important not to lump the middle east into muslims or let americans get away with just being “american” as their religion, which unfortunately has often been carried out as arrogance, over-consumption, and aggression.

    secondly, he says in regards to the U.S. presence in afghanistan, something to the effect that as long as there are terrorists who want to kill as many americans as they can, we need to be there. i disagree. i think we need to work at home and diplomatically abroad to change our behavior and approach to working with other nations, to help dissolve the reasons people hate us. there are reasons people hate us. we need to address those.


  16. 16 Fazeela from Trinidad
    June 4, 2009 at 18:31

    Well said, Tom D Ford.

  17. 17 SAMIR
    June 4, 2009 at 18:33

    At last we witness an Americam President eloquently articulate in public what many american politicians and presidents have said in private or after their term has expired.As an american muslim I now feekl that the the Man in the White House is capable of speaking in my name as well.I applaud his courage wholeheartedly and look forward to see his words supported by deeds on the ground

  18. 18 Hamid
    June 4, 2009 at 18:43

    Obama has done what other previous US presedents dare to do, he addresed the core of the Arab-Muslim vs the west including Israel. He showed new leadership for the rest to follow, that is to know what your talking about, Israel is not above the international law, if we are to ask Iran and North Korea to follow the international rules, why can’t Israel to the same?

  19. 19 Jon
    June 4, 2009 at 19:07

    Obama speaks a fair “level playing field” between Jews and Palestinians. Bringing this to pass, however, in view of American Jewish domination of the American media and the understandable bias they exercise, will be a different thing. Also, the pro Israel bias of many ” fundamental” Christians will also weigh heavy on him. To have an unbiased media in the US, the affirmative action quotas for minorities so well supported by American Jews would have to be extended to American Arabs. Can you imagine having one Arab for each Jew whose viewpoint our “news” is filtered through? Half the employees at NPR would have to be replaced – and at least that percentage in TV news and the New York Times in general.

  20. 20 LoftusRoadLad
    June 4, 2009 at 19:23

    I’ve few issues with the president’s speech–the usual blather–mere words. Time will tell and we shall see. My issue is with the ridiculous so called “World have your say” that went with it. The show should be called “We hate the USA no matter what.” I heard so much twaddle on that show–Muslims being picked up off the streets for no reason–do me a favour–Americans bend over backwards to accept the Muslims here–it’s actually rather pathetic, you’d have to see it to believe it. Furthermore, insetad of pure anecdote, how about naming some of these poor victims? And, the irony of so called Muslims saying their rights are being trampled in the USA–ridiculous–name a Muslim country that it is good to live in–you can’t do it! One day the USA haters shall run out of reasons to hate this country and then perhaps they’ll have to look to themselves for the reasons their countries are so backward–heaven forbid that introspection comes to the Caliphate!

  21. 21 John LaGrua/New York
    June 4, 2009 at 19:26

    An outstanding exposition of American values and hope.He shows there is no substitute for inteligence and breath of understanding gained by education and experience,His courage has been gravely absent in the US political leadership and he has courageously set a tone which if implemented can move mountains.However , he will have to confront the subversive actions of the Isreal Lobby which will continue to intimidate the US Congress into following their line.In addition he will have to end the financing of the Isreali occupation of Palestinian lands and the military support that has enabled Isreal to suppress the Palestinians and most recenty to massacre 1400 innocent civilians in Gaza..with US supplied military equipment An honest broker must mean impariality and any sleight of hand will rapidly discredit Obama’s effort. Reachng out to adversaries is arfull.I would hope he is mindful of the concept of Gladstone ,”Great powers have no permenant friends only permenant interests.” The US interest is to be a standard to the world for decency and fairness with malice toward none and a beacon of freedom to all the oppressed of the world. God speed Mr. President.

  22. June 4, 2009 at 19:38

    It is a good speech but it seems to try and say that Iraq and Afghanistan make a difference to the fact that the disproportionate treatment of Palestinians was the beef of the radicals? Saudi radicals operated entirely on their own behest in the carrying out the 9/11 atrocity and only money from ‘whichever’ source was required to enable them? Nothing we do in the middle east will stop another such incident if they so presume to feel the same about Palestine in the future?

  23. 23 Sena gasu
    June 4, 2009 at 20:10

    1.extremism in the world.

    2.tension between Israel, Palestine and the Arab world.

    3.rights and resposibilities of nations with acees to nuclear weapons.


    5.religious freedom.

    6.women’s rights.

    7.economic development and opportunity.

    i think prez obama speech is the most important thing he has said . let the world and the arab countries should rally behind the good man . obama luvs arabs with irrespective of religion. goo obama

  24. June 4, 2009 at 20:25

    Who said words doesn’t matter?

  25. 25 Dan
    June 4, 2009 at 20:47

    Obama is not apologising to anybody about anything. He believes that the prosperity of America is linked up with that of the rest of the world including the Middle East and other Muslim nations. But prosperity can only take place when nations’ economies are doing well and there is peace and respect among them and not war or threats of war. That is why he is making the effort to heal old wounds and to help restore harmony in the Middle East and the rest of the world. With his background, Obama has a better understanding than George Bush about how the real world works. He does not bully others or judge them by looking into their eyes to feel their souls; he believes in dialogue. Another thing is that war is very very costly by any measure and this should motivate every American to support the avoidance of war except those who benefit from it. It is still clear that a great number of Americans still do not have an appreciation of the effects of globalization and the financial and other costs that the 8-year Bush administration inflicted on America through its ill-informed and morally bankrupt Iraq adventure. We are in this economic and financial debacle because we bought all those lies hook and sinker and voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. Then, Congress slept on the switch and allowed him and a few ideologues to lead our nation into the economic and moral pits from where we are now trying to extricate ourselves. But things will get worse before they get better. Hopefully, we will learn from what has happened to our country because of the policies of the past few years.

  26. 26 Uzra New Zealand
    June 4, 2009 at 23:26

    Hallelujah! finally an American President the Americans can be proud of! I salute you and pray for your success at home and abroad. Your words will heal many hearts, they do make a differnce. God bless you.

  27. June 5, 2009 at 05:51

    This speech of Obama is filled with platitudes and apeasements at the cost of American policies.

    For me Obama is more on the side of the Muslims than he is for democracy as seen in America.

    My conclusion is that Victor is correct and I would add that Obama is gradually showing his true colors.

    He is as his middle name suggests a Muslim at heart and will gradually try to lift the blight on Islam and make the 9/11 look like it was a mistake by the Muslims of the world, as it was not really they who did the act but some disgruntled elements and the Muslims did not agree with it.

    So a clean slate !!!!


  28. 28 Amanda Thomas
    June 5, 2009 at 15:06

    Thank you to Barack Obama for the brilliant words we hoped for.
    PEACE, Man.

  29. 29 Jennifer
    June 5, 2009 at 15:31

    Re: He is as his middle name suggests a Muslim at heart and will gradually try to lift the blight on Islam and make the 9/11 look like it was a mistake by the Muslims of the world, as it was not really they who did the act but some disgruntled elements and the Muslims did not agree with it.

    I am starting to agree. This is the only religion he caters too. And, Muslims make up how much of the US population?

    “The exact number of how many Muslims are living in the United States is fuzzy at best. But one thing is for certain: No matter who you slice it, America ranks low, whether it’s 1.8 million or 8 million.”

    From http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jun/04/barack-obama/obama-claims-america-one-largest-muslim-countries/

    Truth-o-meter says liar liar pants on fire!

    June 5, 2009 at 15:48

    Obama has made a good start.Growing with Christian and Moslem parents he knows the faith and culture of both.The problem now is the approach of solving the conflict in the affected areas.Palestine and Jews ,Afganistan,Syria,Iraq ,Saudi Arabia,China(Moslems &Christians alike are leaving in this country in very difficult conditions).If he is able to restore Justice even in some countries,then people will accept USA as the World leader ,and really dedicated to restore Justice.He must act as soon as possible.Deeds are more important then the words,.

  31. June 6, 2009 at 07:39

    It was an impressive, important and historic speech of a western world leader. It was amazing to hear that the American leader confesses there are negative stereotypes against Islam and that Islam is the religion of peace, which in deed is an absolute reality.

    I think that the President is walking on the right direction by trying to have closer relations with the Muslim world if not closest.

    Everyone of us has the right to live in peace and Amerca has to be realistic – America can not and should not continue supporting Isreal unconditionally. They have to be just and fair!

    Thanks to BBC World News for broadcasting the speech live!

    By the way, it was amazing!


  32. 32 Cajetan Iwunze (UK)
    June 6, 2009 at 09:03

    I think President Obama’s speech was crafted to please the Muslim World. It was not a speach for peace. What he had forgotten was during the time of late Mr Arafat regime, the two state solutions was given to the Palestinians. The Muslim World told Mr Arafat that the objective was not for peace that Muslims cannot live side by side with the Jews. What the Palestinians really want is total annihilation of the Jews. The United Nation and America supplied Palestinians arms even helps to train their police forces to control what was agreed to be Palestinian state. The Palestinians immediately turned their gun to Jewish children and elderly women in Israel, thousands were killing, what seems to be another holocaust taking place while the world watches. It was this type of speech delivered by Clinton that led to millions of US dollars, poured in into what was believed to be ever lasting peace and the money was used to buy technology to build rocket that was aimed to wipe out Israel. Obama should not be deceived by the word “peace” because it means different thing from the Muslim World, it simply implies “wiping out the Jews” that what peace means to them. If what Palestinians need is a state of their own why did they refuse to sign the peace agreement that had given them their own state, 10 years ago?

  33. 33 saad,jaffarabd
    June 6, 2009 at 17:14

    Well the speech was indeed reformatory. But speech has to translated into actions as there is old adage “We live in the world of desires not in our achievement”. Significant is also avoiding word “TERRORIST” . Is speech futile or fruitful time has to prove. At this moment making conclusion about Obama’s success in middle east will be too early and consequently lead to fallacy.

  34. 34 bijayduwal
    June 6, 2009 at 17:22

    great words from the great man.HARMONY is essential in this 21 century.Religious people must acknowledge the message.i believe it as a good steps of PR of USA.

  35. 35 globalcomedy
    June 6, 2009 at 19:12

    In a way it’s a good start. But still, Obama won’t go for real and lasting change in the Mideast. He’s telling many Arab states to allow democracy. Who put many of these countries dictators in power? Who continues to prop them up? Who continues to prop up Israel? All of these countries use torture. Why doesn’t Obama say something about THAT?

    Because the bottom line is Amecan interests and power always come first. And Obama’s just like any other politician.

  36. June 9, 2009 at 13:39

    The speech is a masterpiece or political literature.
    Its declared purpose was to send a goodwill message to the Muslim people in order to further good relations therewith so that grounds had to be defined for wanting to do so, those therefore had to be of a positive nature. In this respect it appeared to be quite adequate on the whole. It remains to see what the reaction of the people concerned will be. Especially that of the people whose declared intention is the annihilation of the Jewish population.
    What did Mr Obama have at the back of his mind while he was talking.
    There must have been a great deal of idealism, it seems to me.

  37. June 14, 2009 at 19:31

    I’ve been gone to Alaska and just returned to civilization. Was so looking forward to hear our Presidents speech and the general message he would send to all in the world.

    His words are basically how I feel about it all, except the President is so gifted at saying and projecting the feelings of humble citizens such as I.

    I’m so proud of him. I did not vote for him, but appreciate so much all that he is trying to do to help solve our problems.

    Seems to me we finally did get a President we can be proud of.

    troop on the Oregon Coast

    • 38 M. M. Amalsadvala
      June 19, 2009 at 14:08

      The President Obama speech – every sentence had a deep sense of understandings, fluent, tragically correct, sincerity and compassion for all concerned.
      What has been noteworthy is his abliity to gain the attention of viewers around the globe, his indepth knowledge & understanding of the issues narrated, his extempore broadcast for more than an hour without signs of faltering and last but not the least – convencining the world of sincerity with which issues will be dealt with has evoked applauses all round.
      Excellent in every way.

  38. 39 Balakrishnan
    June 20, 2009 at 19:51

    We all know that it is a real challenge to achieve peace in the middle east. In this case why is Obama trying to achieve that is difficult. If not really trying at least he is pretending to try. The reason : This is an international issue and the US is trying hard to take the credit of achieving global peace.
    It is a fact that the US is least bothered about Human rights violations, as it has the highest record itself. This is the country that is the cause of the war at Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the country which has huge number of cases of human torture in Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq. This is the country with the maximum nuclear weapons and is talking about world peace. If the US cared about human rights then it should have focused more on the tamil masacare in Sri Lanka.
    It is a pity that the world still has some expectations from the US.

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