News / Asia

Indonesia Islamic Leaders Urge President Obama to Address Mideast Policy

President Obama is planning to make a speech during his upcoming visit to Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim majority country. Muslim leaders in Indonesia say they would like the U.S. president to do more than just reach out to the Muslim world.  

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a major speech in Cairo to Muslims around the world in which he tried to reduce tensions between between the Islamic world and the United States.  Mr. Obama said he sought a new beginning based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  

The speech garnered the president praise and goodwill in many parts of the world.

As the U.S. president prepares to visit Indonesia, Islamic leaders say they are disappointed his Cairo speech did not lead to any changes in foreign policy.  

"During the last few months after that speech, almost one year, nothing has been realized so far," said Din Syamsuddin, head of Mohamadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia.  "So we would like to hear from him on his visit to Indonesia about the realization of that speech."

Professor Azyumardi Azra of the Islamic State University in Jakarta says Muslims in Indonesia would like Mr. Obama to use his state visit to announce real changes in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

"Muslims in general of course expect also that President Obama talk about how he is going to resolve the continued conflicts in Palestine, also in Iraq and in Afghanistan," Azra said.

The president's supporters say diplomatic efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian situation will take time.  

While the U.S. military is still involved in Iraq, President Obama has said U.S. forces will leave that country by 2012.  And though the war in Afghanistan has escalated, U.S. military commanders say they have plans to draw down troops and hand over more of the security function to Afghan forces in the next year.

Some Indonesian Islamic organizations are protesting President Obama's visit, saying his policies towards the Muslim world are no different than his predecessors.  

But Syamsuddin urges Muslims to treat Mr. Obama as a guest in accord with Islamic teaching.   He says he is still hopeful Mr. Obama will make real progress towards peace in the region.

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