Washington : US President Barack Obama promised yesterday, a new start with the Muslim world and a remake of America. “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama said in his landmark inauguration speech, watched by millions around the world. The long-awaited speech came immediately after Obama took the oath of office as America’s 44th president and its first-ever black leader. A son of a black Kenyan father and white American mother, Obama, a practicing Christian, spent several years of his childhood in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world.
America’s relations with the Muslim world have been tense during the eight-year presidency of his predecessor George Bush. Many Muslims were particularly angered by Bush’s so-called war on terror which saw the invasion of two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq. A series of Muslim detainees’ abuse scandals in Afghanistan, Iraq and the notorious Guantanamo detention center also fanned anti-Americanism across the globe, but especially in Muslim countries.
President Obama stressed that his America will “reject as false a choice between our safety and our ideals,” a reference to the usual Bush administration rhetoric justifying civil rights violations and torture tactics. “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan,” he told a sea of cheering multi-racial crowd, estimated at more than two millions. Obama, however, had a stern message to America’s enemies. “For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
Obama, who took the oath with his hand on a Bible used to swear in Abraham Lincoln in 1861, promised to restore to America’s its glory and might, both political and economic. “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” he said to the cheers and applause of millions. Obama, who campaigned on a message of hope and change, is inheriting an America gripped by uncertainty and fears of recession.
In the inauguration speech, he spoke candidly of the challenges facing the nation, notably the economic downturn. “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood,” he said. “Our nation is at war…Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age, Obama explained. “Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered.”
Obama insisted that while America faces daunting challenges, its people must enter a new era of responsibility. “We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things,” said the new president. “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time,” added Obama. “But know this, America – they will be met.