Obama calls on Muslim world to help defeat al-Qaeda

2010-11-10 07:18

US President Barack Obama today called on the Muslim world to work together with the United States to defeat al-Qaeda as he concluded his visit to Indonesia, his childhood home.

Obama reiterated statements he made in Cairo last year that the United States was not at war with Islam, and urged all sides to look beyond “suspicion and mistrust”.

“All of us must defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion – certainly not a great world religion like Islam,” Obama said at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta.

“Those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy,” he said. “This is not a task for America alone.”

Obama praised Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, for its progress “in rooting out terrorists and combating violent extremism”.

Indonesia has killed and jailed scores of Islamic militants blamed for a series of attacks in the country in recent years, notably the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

Obama acknowledged that much more work remained to be done to address issues that have caused tensions between the Muslim world and the United States, including the Middle East conflict and US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US president, who peppered his speech with Indonesian words to thunderous cheers from the audience, said the nation’s diversity should serve as an example to the world.

“Even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia - that spirit of tolerance that is written into your constitution, symbolised in your mosques and churches and temples, and embodied in your people – still lives on,” said Obama, who lived in Jakarta as a boy from 1967 to 1971 after his mother married an Indonesian.

Earlier in the day, Obama toured Indonesia’s largest mosque, Istiqlal, in a goodwill gesture to Muslims.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a chartreuse pantsuit and a headscarf adorned with gold beads and black fringe, were guided by Imam Haji Mustapha Ali Yaqub.

The president said Ali Yaqub pointed out that the mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia in terms of capacity, stood next to a cathedral.

He said the imam told him that at Christmas, the mosque allowed the cathedral’s parishioners to use the mosque’s parking lot “because they don’t have enough facilities”.

“That’s an example of the kind of cooperation” between religions in Indonesia, Obama said.

Obama said yesterday that his efforts to mend ties with the Muslim world were “on the right path” but acknowledged that the job was unfinished.

“I think that our efforts have been earnest, sustained,” Obama said after talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He said security issues would not be the sole focus for the United States as it moves ahead to build bridges with the Muslim world.

In speech last year in Cairo, Obama laid out his plans to repair Washington’s image in the Islamic world after it led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama left Indonesia two hours earlier than scheduled because of fears that ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano, 500km southeast of Jakarta, could disrupt flights.

He travelled to South Korea to attend a summit of the Group of 20, the world’s 20 largest economies, that starts tomorrow.

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