Obama: "The United States is not at war with Islam"

In a speech to the Turkish parliament, the president calls for a strengthening of ties between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

Published April 6, 2009 2:00PM (EDT)

Fulfilling a campaign promise to speak in a Muslim capital during the first 100 days of his presidency, President Obama addressed the Turkish parliament Monday. His message was one of unity, and it had quite a different feel from the rhetoric of Obama's predecessor.

"I know there have been difficulties these last few years. I know that the trust that binds us has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced," Obama said. "Let me say this as clearly as I can: the United States is not at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."

During his time in office, President Bush had also declared, on more than one occasion, that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. Even so, when he did it, his message was harsher, more aggressive. In a 2006 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, for instance, Bush said, "Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam."

Naturally, people like Matt Drudge are already seizing on a different part of Obama's speech, one in which he says, "we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith." That will have a certain appeal to some people, of course. But a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that, even while many Americans remain skeptical of Islam and of Muslims, most want to see this kind of outreach to the Muslim world.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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