During his election campaign, President Barack Hussein Obama made clear that he wants to rebuild relations with the Muslim world. In that spirit, the White House has announced that he will give a speech in Egypt on June 4. "This is a continuing effort of the president to engage the Muslim world," said press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Here is my proposed text of the speech Obama should give if he truly wants to "engage the Muslim world":
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters: Asalamalaykum.
I am delighted to be addressing the Muslim world from Egypt-an important African, Arab and Muslim country.
For an African-American to come back to Africa is a personal pilgrimage. To see the kind of civilization that African-Egyptians built 7,000 years ago fills me with pride. I also imagined that all the Muslim members of my extended family walked along with me as I visited the splendid mosques of Cairo.
There are more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, millions in the U.S., but today the U.S. and the Muslim worlds are at a crossroads. I do not believe they are on a collision course. I believe there is still time to work together for world peace, a just distribution of global wealth, and liberty and prosperity for all.
The U.S. will have to work hard to change course because over the years it has cultivated a culture of violence that violates the most sacred canons of religion, including Islam.
I will make sure that the U.S., with all its power, becomes a peacemaker the world over, especially in the Muslim world.
I will end our occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. I will press Israel to end its 42-year-old occupation of native Palestinian lands. I will work with Iran in its quest to gain the know-how to generate nuclear energy. I will make sure the U.S. and its allies pay fair market value for the natural resources they take from the Muslim world.
Islam is not our enemy. War, poverty, ignorance and despair-these are the real enemies.
To defeat them together we must first defeat the ignorance about the debt that Western civilization owes to Islam. We must instill in our students a more accurate appreciation of Islamic culture, values and civilization for it is part of our collective Westerner inheritance, not something foreign to be feared.
Muslims have championed social justice, equality, and tolerance, and over the centuries have been at the forefront of defending these values. We in the West must realize that it is in our interest for Islam to remain strong.
How many of us realize that many of the inventions we take for granted-space travel, medicine, mathematics, engineering, even the microchip-are built upon more than a millennium of achievements by Muslim scientists and scholars? For good reason, the cities of Toledo and Damsacus were known throughout the civilized world as university cities.
Muslim scientists and engineers in Spain, along with their counterparts in the East, experimented with inertia, momentum, pressure and gravity, and developed theories that resulted in practical waterwheels and distribution systems for irrigation and storage.
In the 10th century, Al-Haytham pioneered the science of optics and the physics of light. He wrote one of the greatest medieval scientific works, al-Kitab-al-Manazir, or Book of Optics, a detailed exploration of mirages, comets, eclipses, rainbows and the camera obscura, the beginning of photographic instruments. His exhaustive studies in optics and related fields influenced Western scientific thought for centuries.
Nine centuries before Charles Darwin, the Baghdad scientist-historian al-Masudi spoke of the process of evolution from mineral, to plant, to animal, to human being. His 10th-century foundational concepts were gradually inherited by Western scholars and only reached fruition with Darwin in the 1800s.
Muslim philosophers had a profound impact on Western religion. The theories on form and matter of ibn-Sina (Avicenna), 10th-11th centuries, became incorporated into Medieval Christian scholasticism. Ibn Rushd (Averroes), inquired into the very meaning of existence and gave Europe its greatest understanding of Aristotle.
Averroes was one of the first to advocate the separation of philosophy from religion, and for all his efforts he is considered the founding father of European secular thought.
Among other philosophers were al-Kindi, who built on the work of Plato and Aristotle, and al-Farabi, who modeled society after the human organism, with the heart serving as a moral and intellectually perfect sovereign. Even the experimental method, the foundation of modern science (especially chemistry) owes much of its development to eighth-century Muslims scientists like Jabir bin Hyan.
Today, it is a certainty that some of what is Islamic is Western, and some of what is Western is Islamic. After some 14 centuries of cultural sharing, each great civilization has come to depend upon the other; each is, indeed, a substantial part of the other. People in every land are heirs to the richness of these past achievements. May they be a cornerstone for building a future of peace and progress.
For that to happen, though, the Western and the Muslim worlds must first understand each other.
Let us start now.
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Related / External Link (s):
How Islamic inventors changed the world
March 11, 2006, The Independent
Charting the lost innovations of Islam
by Paul Lewis, March 10, 2006, The Guardian
10 Greatest Inventions by Muslims
by Paul Lewis, December 19, 2006, Pravda.ru