News / USA

President Obama Defends Progress Made in Engaging Islamic World

President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, 10 Nov 2010
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, 10 Nov 2010

To rousing applause, President Barack Obama told university students in Jakarta of Indonesia's role in his life. And he vowed to continue working to improve the United States' relationship with the world's Muslim communities.

President Obama began his speech at the University of Indonesia by reflecting on his experience living in the world's largest Muslim-majority country as a young boy.

"Let me begin with a simple statement:  Indonesia is a part of me. I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro. As a young boy, I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home," he said.

Speaking before thousands of students, the president praised the country's democratic transformation in the last decade and urged further reforms to fight corruption there.

Mr. Obama also used his second major address in a Muslim-majority country to further expound on three areas of mutual interest: development, democracy and religion.

He spoke of how the global economy is interconnected and the greater role emerging economies like Indonesia now play in the Group of 20 economic powers. He also pledged increased cooperation on combating climate change and promised to double the number of student exchanges between the U.S. and Indonesia.

While making the case that democracy and economic progress are linked, President Obama again condemned the recent election in Burma, which opposition groups say was marked by fraud and voter intimidation.

He defended his efforts to improve relations with Muslim communities around the world - by working to end the war in Iraq, stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, and pursue peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But he acknowledged much work needed to be done and that violent extremism must be defeated.

"I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion - certainly not a great, world religion like Islam," he said.

Earlier in the day the president and his wife Michelle toured the Istaqlal Mosque in Jakarta, which sits across from a church. Mr. Obama said the U.S. and Indonesia are linked by long standing traditions of tolerance.

"It's a story written into our national mottos. E pluribus unum - out of many, one. Bhinneka tunggal ika - unity in diversity. We are two nations, which have traveled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag," he said.

Following the speech some onlookers gathered to watch the presidential motorcade pass. Deden Subagya took a day off work for the chance to see the American president.

He says he would love to shake hands or at least wave to his parade.

President Obama's visit to Indonesia was cut short because of ash clouds coming from the Merapi volcano in central Java. He travels on to Seoul for G20 economic summit.

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