U.S. President Barack Obama says it is time for a new beginning in relations between America and the world's Muslims. The president said they should unite to confront violent extremism and promote the cause of peace.
President Obama says, after decades of frustration and distrust, it is time for candor ... for dialogue ... and a fresh start.
"I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition," the president said.
Seeking common ground
He spoke in a packed auditorium on the sprawling campus of Cairo University. But his intended audience was far broader: more than one-billion Muslims around the world.
"I am convinced that in order to move forward we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors," President Obama said. "There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground."
The president spoke of his own perspective as a Christian with Muslim relatives who spent part of his youth in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.
"That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it is not," he said. " And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear."
Hatred of a few
President Obama said problems must be dealt with through partnership, and tensions must be faced head on.
He said extremists are playing on their differences, and are killing people in many countries of many faiths.
"The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few," President Obama said. "Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism, it is an important part of promoting peace."
The president said it is important to talk directly about all the issues that have created frictions in the past, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: 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," he said.
President Obama said the Palestinians must renounce violence, and Israel must cease settlement activity. He said all sides must look honestly and openly at the reality of the situation.
"Privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away," the president said. "Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true."
The president also spoke of the need to work together to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons, making specific mention of Iran's nuclear ambitions.
And he spoke bluntly of the need to promote democracy, religious freedom, and women's rights.
"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality," President Obama said.
Before the speech, Mr. Obama met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and visited a mosque. After the address, he headed to the outskirts of the city to see the pyramids - a nod to the Egyptian capital's long history at the heart of the Arab world.