US President Barack Obama on Monday, April 6, seized upon his first visit to a Muslim country to bridge the gap between his country and the Muslim world, praising Muslim contributions to the world over centuries.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam," Obama said in a major address to the Turkish parliament on the final leg of his European tour.
"I know there have been difficulties these last few years," he admitted.
"I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced."
America’s relations with the Muslim world hit all time low under wartime president George W. Bush.
Many Muslims were particularly angered by Bush’s so-called war on terror which saw the invasion of two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq.
A series of detainees abuse scandals in Afghanistan, Iraq and the notorious Guantanamo detention camp also fanned anti-Americanism across the globe, but particularly in Muslim countries.
Obama stressed that US ties with the Muslim world could not be simply defined by opposition to terrorism.
"America’s relationship with the Muslim work cannot and will not be based on opposition to al-Qaeda.
"In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people."
Obama said he would unveil specific programs to enhance education and health care and boost prosperity in Muslim world.
"We will demonstrate through actions our commitment to a better future.
"Our focus will be on what we can do, in partnership with people across the Muslim world, to advance our common hopes, and our common dreams."
Obama praised Muslim contributions to the world over the centuries.
"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," he told Turkish MPs.
"The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans."
Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly seven million Muslims.
Obama drew on his own experience as he sought to forge new trust with the Muslim world.
"Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them."
Obama is the son of a Muslim-turned-atheist Kenyan father and a white American mother that did not practice religion.
Born in Hawaii, he lived from ages 6 to 10 in Indonesia with his mother and Muslim stepfather.
The American president said his administration was seeking engagement with Muslim world.
"We seek broad engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.
"We will listen carefully, bridge misunderstanding, and seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree."
Obama said Turkey has been a resolute ally and a responsible partner in transatlantic and European institutions.
Turkey has been a close ally of the US in a strategic region between Europe, the Caucasus and the Middle East, bordering troubled countries such as Georgia, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
Obama renewed support to Turkey’s EU bid, asserting Ankara could play as a bridge between the East and the West.
"Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union."
Turkey has long been seeking to join the 27-nation European Union, but meets a strong resistance from some heavyweights such as Germany and France.
"Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together," insisted Obama.
"Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it.
"And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more."