Obama’s Speech Highlights

In his long-awaited speech to the Muslim world on Thursday, June 4, US President Barack Obama touched on several key issues.

Following are his main quotes on issues as important as Islam, extremism, the Middle East peace process, religious freedoms, democracy, Iraq and Iran.


The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars.

The cycle of suspicion and discord between Islam and West must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the US and Muslims around the world.

American and Islam overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I know civilization’s debt to Islam.

It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

Islam has always been a part of America’s story.

American Muslims have enriched the United States.

Partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t.

It is part of my responsibility as President of the US to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

Seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

There is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders.

The US government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.


Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

Violent extremists have exploited tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.

9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country, it provoked fear and anger in some cases led us to act contrary to our ideals.

We will relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.

None of us should tolerate these extremists. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam.

The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

Mideast Peace:

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known, unbreakable.

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

Settlement construction violates previous agreements, undermines efforts to achieve peace, it is time to stop.

Israel must live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, work, and develop their society.

The Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.

For more than sixty years the Palestinians have endured the pain of dislocation.

The Palestinians endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation.

The continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security.

The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

Palestinians must abandon violence.

Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The Arab states must recognize that the Arab peace initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities.

All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear.

All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together.


America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.

America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.

No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.

And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion.

Religious Freedoms:

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.

People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul.

You must respect the rights of minorities.

The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.

Fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shiite have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat after rules on charitable giving have made it harder for them to fulfill their religious obligation.

Western countries have to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear.

I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.

I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles, but it should be their choice.

Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.


Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world.

I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.

America has a dual responsibility; to help Iraq forge a better future and to leave Iraq to Iraqis.

We will remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012.

We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy.


I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward.

A nuclear arms race in the Middle East could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.

Any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power.

Economic Development:

Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities.

Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures, the same for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai.

We will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities.

We will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries.

We will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries.

Today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio.

We will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.


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