Obama to Muslims: 'Americans are not your enemy'

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

President Barack Obama of the United States had his first full interview since his inauguration, on Al Arabiya television. The Dubai television network in the United Arab Emirates had exclusive access to the President.

Barack Obama in his historic interview on Al Arabia.
Image: Al Arabiya.

During the interview, Obama repeated a campaign promise to deliver a speech in a Muslim capital, and urged that the peace process between Israel and Palestine resume.

"We cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people," Obama said.

The President pointed out that he had lived for years in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. This experience taught him that people share the same hopes and dreams regardless of their faith, he said.

"My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy — we sometimes make mistakes — we have not been perfect," said Obama. "But if you look at the track record... America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that."

The same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that.

President Barack Obama on Al Arabiya television.

Obama also spoke about al-Qaeda and, according to Al Arabiya, former President George W. Bush's "war on terror".

"[What] we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations — whether Muslim or any other faith in the past — that will use faith as a justification for violence. Our administration [will] be very clear in distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda — that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it — and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions." Obama also stated that he "cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down."

On the topic of Iran, Obama stated that the country has not been conducive to peace, and that, "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."

"If we start the steady progress on these issues, I'm absolutely confident that the United States, working in tandem with the European Union, with Russia, with all the Arab States in the region — I'm absolutely certain that we can make significant progress," Obama told the interviewer.

Immediately prior to the interview, Obama met with George J. Mitchell, his special envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell then embarked on his diplomatic mission with visits to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France and the United Kingdom.