- (Photo: AP / Charles Dharapak)
During his visit to Turkey, President Obama extended a hand of reconciliation to the Muslim world Monday, promising that the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.”
“I know there have been difficulties these last few years,” Obama said in an address to the Turkish parliament. “I know that the trust that binds us have been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced."
“So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam,” he stated.
Obama’s visit to Muslim-majority Turkey – the last leg of his weeklong Europe trip – serves as a strategic as well as symbolic visit to send a message to the Muslim world that the new administration wants to have friendlier relations with it than its predecessor.
Relations with Turkey and Muslim nations became strained after the Bush administration and the U.S. government decided to go to war in Iraq in 2003. Turkey and other Muslim nations oppose the Iraq war.
The president noted that he, like other Americans, have Muslims in their family or have lived in Muslim-majority countries. He was introduced, according to the New York Times, as Barack Hussein Obama, and said that the United States had been “enriched by Muslim-Americans.”
"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," Obama said.
He also expressed hope that the United States and Turkey can “build a model relationship…that is respectful, that is secure, that is prosperous.”
Turkey is a unique country in the sense that it has a secular democratic government despite being overwhelmingly Muslim.
Based on a new poll, most Americans would approve of Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world. The majority of Americans consider Obama’s vow to “seek a new way forward” with the Muslim world an important goal, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday.
However, the poll also found that nearly half (48 percent) of Americans hold negative views about Islam – the highest figure in polls since late 2001.
Moreover, nearly 30 percent believe mainstream Islam advocates violence against non-Muslims. However, nearly 60 percent see it as a peaceful religion.
The U.S. adult population is about 1 percent Muslims.