President Obama gave a great speech today at the United Nations. When he speaks – he is the face of our country and frankly – I can’t think of a better person to represent our values. He spoke a great deal about the importance of Freedom of Speech and how that helps America but also how it can help other countries throughout the world. He spoke of the importance for the Western world and the Middle East to find common ground. He spoke of the importance of denouncing extremism in all of its forms. It was a worldly speech; it is a speech that everyone should watch.
I also found it interesting how he referred to women in the Muslim world. For far too long – women are treated as 2nd hand citizens in most Muslim countries and that is an immediate difference between the “Muslim world” and the Western world. Very few predominantly Muslim countries truly give women equal rights; Turkey is among one of the few who do. So – it was very reassuring to see President Obama bring that up a couple of times.
You can find the full transcript of Obama’s speech at the United Nations HERE.
Coincidentally – Gallup came out with a poll today showing Americans’ trust of government to handle international problems is at a 9 year high HERE. That’s because of smart decisions that are being made by our President internationally.
The Guardian highlights several right wing responses to this speech … they’re living in another world HERE:
The backlash was almost immediate with some on the right saying the president was launching a thinly veiled attack on Christians.
“It is an orthodox Christian belief that Mohammed is not a prophet,” wrote Erick Erickson, the editor of the conservative website Red State. “Actual Christians, as opposed to many of the supposed Christians put up by the mainstream media, believe that Christ is the only way to salvation. Believing that is slandering Mohammed.”
Erickson also saw a double standard in Obama condemning the slander of Mohammed while condemning only the desecration of the image of Christ.
“Note he says we cannot ‘slander the prophet of Islam’ but it’s only the image of Christ in the next sentence – not actually Christ himself desecrated. If this is so, why does Barack Obama’s government continue funding the National Endowment for the Arts, which funds Christ in piss, the Virgin Mary painted in dung, etc.?” he said.
Here are certain key pieces from Obama’s speech that stood out to me ….
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with.
We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.
There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.
Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims– any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.
We believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.
The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.
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