Obama promises 'mutual respect' for Muslims

Obama promised "mutual respect" for the Muslim world after being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

Obama promises 'mutual respect' for Muslims

Barack Obama took power as the first black U.S. president on Tuesday and promised "mutual respect" for the Muslim world after being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America," Obama said, addressing an exuberant sea of people in an inaugural speech that was optimistic but realistic about the challenges ahead.

He pledged bold and swift action to bring new life to the U.S. economy and declared to millions watching abroad: "We are ready to lead once more."

Hundreds of thousands of people erupted in cheers on Washington's National Mall grounds as they watched Obama stand with one hand raised and the other on a Bible used to swear in Abraham Lincoln in 1861, and repeat the brief oath to become the 44th U.S. president.

"Obama, Obama," the crowd cheered.

During a triumphant ride down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in a heavily armored limousine, Obama and his wife thrilled wildly cheering crowds by getting out of the limo and walking part of the way.

Obama first enjoyed a night of celebration, appearing with Michelle at 10 inaugural balls around Washington.

"Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow the work begins," Obama said later at a ball for military families.

The inauguration of Obama, 47, the son of a black Kenyan Muslim father and a white Christian mother from Kansas, was steeped in symbolism for African-Americans, who for generations suffered slavery and then racial segregation that made them second-class citizens.

The jubilant mood was jolted by the collapse of Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, 76, who suffered a seizure at an inaugural lunch honoring Obama. The brother of the late President John F. Kennedy was driven away by an ambulance to a hospital, where he was described as awake and answering questions.

Polls show widespread U.S. public support for Obama and optimism about the coming four years of his presidency.

Reaching out to Muslims

Obama, a practicing Christian, spent several years of his childhood in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation. His American mother, Ann Dunham, married Muslim Indonesian Lolo Soetoro after the end of her marriage to Obama's Kenyan father.

Obama vowed a change, saying he rejected as false "the choice between our safety and our ideals."

Minutes after taking the oath of presidential office with his hand on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln, Obama said: To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and "mutual respect".

"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

His administration will be guided by such principles as it meet "those new threats that demand .... even greater cooperation and understanding between nations," Obama declared.

"We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan," he said.

"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat," he said.

"You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you," he said.

He made no direct reference to the Israel occupation in Palestine.

"Welcomed"

The Council on American Islamic Relations welcomed Obama's "promise" on seeking better relations with Muslim nations.

"We hope this encouraging statement, coupled with a change in America's previous policies toward the Muslim world, will help improve our nation's image and promote a safe and prosperous future for all of humanity," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the council.

The first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, said Obama's words were an important signal of goodwill to Muslims in the United States as well as the rest of the world.

"I do believe it could undermine recruiting for al Qaeda," he told Reuters, because "their message depends on trying to demonize the United States as a country that is somehow hostile to Islam and the Muslim world."

Ellison said Obama's outreach would make it hard for al Qaeda to sustain its anti-American message.

Many Muslims are already excited about Obama, he said.

"If you were to go to Damascus, or Cairo, or Jerusalem today, you could find an Obama tee shirt. People are excited about the possibilities for what this means around the globe."

The population of Ellison's district is three or four percent Muslim, he said. Since his election to Congress in 2006, another Muslim has also been voted in: Democrat Andre Carson of Indiana.

About 300 young Muslims from 76 countries signed a letter published in the Washington Post on Tuesday, urging the new president to make policy changes that could improve relations between the Muslim world and the West.



Agencies



Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2009, 17:11
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