WASHINGTON, Aug 21: US President Barack Obama used an annual ritual — a Ramazan message — on Friday to assure the Muslims that his administration had an ‘unyielding’ determination to resolve the issues that plague relations between the Muslim and western worlds. “We are … committed to keeping our responsibility to build a world that is more peaceful and secure,” he said. “That is why we are responsibly ending the war in Iraq. That is why we are isolating violent extremists while empowering the people in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Mr Obama also assured the Muslims that he and his government were “unyielding in our support for a two-state solution that recognises the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security”.
Mr Obama’s message was very different from the terse and brief Ramazan messages of his predecessor which did not go much beyond formal felicitations and the expression of a desire for better relations between the two civilisations.
In his first Ramazan message, the US president not only identified the real issues but also demonstrated a better understanding of Islam and its rituals. All his efforts, he said, were a part of America’s commitment to engage Muslims and Muslim-majority nations on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect.
“And at this time of renewal, I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world.” Mr Obama recalled that in a speech in Cairo on June 4, he had stressed the need for a new beginning between the Muslim and western worlds. “This new beginning must be borne out in a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another and to seek common ground,” he said. “I believe an important part of this is listening.”
He said that in the last two months, American embassies around the world had reached out not just to governments, but directly to people in Muslim-majority countries, receiving “an outpouring of feedback” about how America could be a partner on behalf of peoples’ aspirations. “We have listened. We have heard you. And like you, we are focussed on pursuing concrete actions that will make a difference over time – both in terms of the political and security issues that I have discussed, and in the areas that you have told us will make the most difference in peoples’ lives.”
Such consultations, Mr Obama said, were helping his government implement the partnerships that he called for in Cairo – to expand education exchange programmes; to foster entrepreneurship and create jobs; and to increase collaboration on science and technology, while supporting literacy.
Mr Obama said his administration was also moving forward in partnering with the OIC and OIC member states to eradicate polio, while working closely with the international community to confront common health challenges like H1N1 which was of particular concern to many Muslims preparing for the upcoming Haj.