Barack Obama marked his first visit to a Muslim nation as US president today with a declaration that the US “is not at war with Islam”.
Addressing the Turkish parliament, Mr Obama called the country an important ally in many areas, including the fight against terrorism.
He devoted much of his speech to urging a greater bond between Americans and Muslims, portraying terrorist groups such as al-Qaida as extremists who did not represent the vast majority of Muslims.
“Let me say this as clearly as I can,” Mr Obama said. “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.”
Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyia, two of the biggest Arabic satellite channels, carried Mr Obama’s speech live.
Mr Obama acknowledged in his speech that relations between the United States and the Muslim world have been strained.
“America’s relationship with the Muslim world cannot and will not be based on opposition to al-Qaida,” he said. “We seek broad engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.”
“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,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama also said, to a round of applause, that the United States supports Turkey becoming a member of the European Union.