Obama in Turkey Says U.S. Not at War with Islam

In a speech that was carried live on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, President Obama told members of the Turkish Parliament that the United States "is not at war with Islam" and called for a stronger relationship between the United States and the Muslim world that goes beyond the fight against al Qaeda.

"I know there have been difficulties these last few years," Obama said, in what is just the latest nod to an apology for the Bush years that Obama has made in first presidential overseas trip.

President Obama
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"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. Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not at war with Islam," the president said.

Turkey is the last stop on Obama's European swing and his first visit to a Muslim nation as president. He firmly expressed his commitment for the European Union to accept Turkey as a member, praised progress the majority-Muslim country has made on human and minority rights and suggested that Turkey has a unique role in helping to broker peace around the world.

Obama said the partnership between the United States and the Muslim world is critical in the fight against Islamic terrorism, what he called "a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."

But he also said the partnership has to be about more than just fighting global terrorism.

"I also want to be clear that America's relationship with the Muslim world cannot and will not be based on opposition to al Qaeda. Far from it," he said.

On this final leg of his first overseas trip, Obama sought to repair relations with the Muslim world that were damaged after the attacks of Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq. The president said his administration seeks "broad engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect."

"We will listen carefully, bridge misunderstanding and seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree," he said. "And we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better -- including my own country."

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Obama noted his personal ties to the Muslim world and the connection that many Americans have.

"The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family or have lived in a Muslim-majority country. I know because I am one of them," said Obama who lived for several years as a child in Indonesia.

Obama said earlier today that his trip to Turkey, a majority-Muslim nation, was intended to send a message.

"I am trying to make a statement about the importance of Turkey not just to the United States but to the world. This is a country that has been often said lies in the crossroads between East and West," Obama said during a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

Obama said that as a member of NATO and a majority Muslim nation, Turkey is in a unique position and "has insights into a whole host of regional and strategic challenges that we face."

Obama indicated he wanted to move beyond military issues in the U.S.-Turkish relationship and look at ways to expand trade and commerce between the two nations.

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