Obama To Address U.S.-Islamic Relations In Egypt
by The Associated Press
NPR.org, May 8, 2009 · President Barack Obama, who promised to lend a hand to the Islamic world if it unclenches a fist, plans a major speech from Egypt next month as he seeks to repair damaged relations between the United States and Muslims.
The much-anticipated speech will further Obama's efforts to cool down animosities that burst into flame 30 years ago when Iranians overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and were fueled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least two other emotional highlights seem certain. Obama will visit the former Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald in Germany on June 5. And he will be in France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the allies' invasion of Normandy on D-Day.
Obama, whose father was a Muslim from Kenya, said in Turkey last month that the United States "is not and never will be at war with Islam."
His June 4 speech at a yet-to-be-determined Egyptian site will delve more deeply into U.S.-Islamic relations at a time when predominantly Muslim Pakistan is a major concern to the Obama administration.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama chose Egypt because it "in many ways represents the heart of the Arab world." He later said the president will be addressing non-Arab Muslims as well, noting that non-Arab Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country and a place where Obama spent part of his childhood.
Obama's decision may not sit well with activists pushing for greater democracy in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak has been in control since 1981. Gibbs sidestepped the question of whether Obama considers Egypt a democracy.
"The issues of democracy and human rights are things that are on the president's mind," Gibbs told reporters at the White House. "And we'll have a chance to discuss those in more depth on the trip."
Egyptians' reception of Obama will be closely watched all over the world. With his Islamic name (Barack Hussein Obama) and family links to Islam, many Muslims are fascinated by the new U.S. president.
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