Return to Transcripts main page
President Obama's Muslim Outreach; Interview With Congressman Andre Carson; Discussion with Muslim-Americans On Their Reaction to President Obama's Speech
Aired June 4, 2009 - 10:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama reaches out to Muslims around the world and calls for an end to suspicion and discord between the U.S. and Islam.
During this hour, we will bring you major portions of the president's much-anticipated speech today from Cairo, Egypt. We will have reaction, analysis, and insight from our correspondents and guests.
Right now, the president is about to leave Egypt for Dresden, Germany. During his speech at Cairo University, he outlined several themes in areas of tension.
He talked about confronting violent extremism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and nuclear weapons. He also touched on democracy, religious freedom, and women's rights. Also economic development.
The president's speech was billed as effort to mend faces and open a new dialogue with the Muslim world. He started by talking about ongoing tensions, the September 11 attacks, and the need to find common ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world, tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation but also conflict and religious wars.
More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims and a Cold War in which Muslim majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and western countries but also to human rights.
All this has bred more fear and more mistrust. So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap and share common principles, principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point.
But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground.
As the Holy Quran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth."
That is what I will try to do today, to speak the truth as best I can. Humbled by the task before us and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Now, part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian. But my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk.
As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is at the State Department.
And Jill, some bold statements in that speech from the president that lasted almost an hour.
First of all, give me your perspective as our foreign affairs correspondent, your thoughts on the speech.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Tony, as I was watching it, I was thinking that the people in that hall and the people in the Muslim world were probably hearing a different speech from what Americans were hearing -- their words, their languages, and things that he was doing that were different, that they heard in a different way. And I think, number one, he was using Islamic words. I should say Arabic words.
DOUGHERTY: He was speaking in Arabic in certain parts. He was quoting the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Those are very different and unexpected powerful moments. And you could hear -- I charted the applause, and it came at those moments.
Another thing, the message that he was really giving, maybe in code, you might say, to the responsible Islamic world and the Muslim world, which is that terrorism doesn't work.
HARRIS: The moderates.
DOUGHERTY: Exactly, to the moderates. And they are defaming, they're hijacking your religion and turning people against you. Therefore, maybe you could do something about it.
And then also, I think his message that when he talked about the African-American experience, just saying that, you know, African- Americans got their rights without violence, nonviolent. And that's a message that's very powerful in the rest of the world.
HARRIS: Hey, Jill, we understand some Muslims actually watched the speech at the Council on American-Islamic relations. What are you hearing from that?
DOUGHERTY: Exactly. Well, it was pretty positive. Maybe we can play a couple of them. One person saying we need to get a little more concrete.
Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAEZ AHMED, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY STUDENT: He used of the Holy Quran that, in the Muslim world, if you use this part -- if you use this part from the Holy Quran, that means you read the Quran, you understand the Quran, and you understand what I believe in. So he was talking with my faith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIHAD AWAD, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: I think his approach has been religious (ph) and realistic. Muslims need to hear that clarity. But at the same time, I think they're still hopeful that there will be details, because we are all hopeful that there will be a breakaway from the past, from the past policies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGHERTY: And Tony, you know, the really interesting part of this is that the White House and the State Department were really going all out on different platforms getting this message and this speech out -- Facebook, Twitter, you name it, and in a variety of different languages. You know, Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, all sorts of different languages. So it was a full-court press on that.
HARRIS: That's something. Yes, absolutely.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty for us.
Jill, appreciate it. Thank you.
Women's rights, extremism, and democracy -- we are bringing you more from President Obama's speech and reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AL-ARABIYA: But the point is they quoted (ph) him well on the issue of democracy. I mean, there is that yearning for democracy, there's yearning for human rights, for all of these principles that we all talk about and we cherish, and the issues of tolerance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.
We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject, the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support.
We did not go by choice. We went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the offense of 9/11. But let us be clear. Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day.
The victims were innocent men, women, and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach.
These are not opinions to be debated. These are facts to be dealt with. Make no mistake, we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict.
We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case. And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken.
Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths but, more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam.
The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as it if has killed all mankind.
And the Holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.
The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced.
That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.
Now, let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.
Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said, "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us that the less we use our power, the greater it will be." Today America has a dual responsibility to help Iraq forge a better future and to leave Iraq to Iraqis.
I have made it clear to the Iraqi people...
I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no basis and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: President Barack Obama delivering a message to Muslims around the world. You've just heard an excerpt from his speech today in Cairo, Egypt, where he talked about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Boy, he could have also added in there what's going on in Pakistan right now. And really, the theme there confronting extremists.
Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is here with some insights.
And Nic, as you listened to the speech, you were pointing out to me what it feels to both of us, like a more holistic approach to confronting extremism by this president. You pointed to a particular passage in the speech.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, generally, he's tried to reach and touch on every topic that's key to Muslims and their relationship as they perceive it with the United States. And I think what we're looking at in Pakistan, where he talked about the need to help with education there, the need -- that Pakistanis understand the problem the United States faces with extremists. Muslims is a problem that they're having right now.
He talked about giving money right now for the displaced, clearly an indication that support for the current fighting the Pakistani government is going through with the Taliban. But also really indicating a long-term solution, talking about billions for education.
HARRIS: If you're talking about the fight in Pakistan, how important is it that at some point here very soon, what is going on in Pakistan is viewed as in a fight in the interest of Pakistanis and not the Pakistanis fighting at the best of America and an American administration?
ROBERTSON: You know, you're always going to find the extremists in Pakistan hijacking that message as well and saying -- and trying to drive the message home to everyone else that this is the Pakistani government helping the United States, the United States' war on terrorism. Noticeable, that language was lacking and missing in President Obama's speech. It is happening in Pakistan.
If you look at the fight against the Taliban right now, this is something that's been enabled because people are beginning to recognize that this is their problem and their own fight and there is political support for it. But what brings down and hampers a Pakistani government trying to sell this message is political infighting in the country for pure and simple power, political power in the country.
ROBERTSON: So that fighting undermines getting that message out there (ph).
HARRIS: Well, let's broaden it. And give me your thoughts on the president's speech overall.
Was it a balanced speech, equally tough on Arabs, on Muslims, on Israelis?
ROBERTSON: It seemed to be so. I mean, he seemed to sort of give a tip of the hat very clearly to Hamas that they are supported and recognized by the Palestinian people, but that they have to end their violence, recognize Israel, something they haven't done so far, something that they have yet to give an ironclad guarantee for. But also being very tough on the Israelis by saying you've got to end the settlement, which clearly is becoming a big topic of conversation.
So, yes, being tough on both sides there.
HARRIS: Can I jump in on just that point?
We know that the reaction from a lot of Israelis, particularly on the settlement question, has been tough. And the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is essentially saying, "Mr. President, you're asking us to go too far."
Based on all of your experience in that region, how difficult is it going to be to take a day like today and take this moment and turn it into some kind of real action plan to move forward on peace in the Middle East?
ROBERTSON: It's going to be very, very tough. There's a lot of lobbying that's going to go on to prevent that. But this is, if anything, going to be a litmus test for Muslims across the world.
We've heard President Obama's great speech and his great words, and there's a lot of hope invested in him across the Muslim world. But now he's got to be able to follow through. So this particular issue of how he deals with Israel and the lobbying to allow some expansion of settlements, which is against what he's saying should happen, that's going to be the litmus test and how tough he can be and how Arabs are going to judge him on his deeds, not just his words. HARRIS: Yes.
Nic, it's great to have you here in Atlanta on this day.
Nic Robertson with us.
Nic, appreciate it.
ROBERTSON: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
We will continue airing portions of the president's speech, but we also want to hear from you. What do you think about President Obama's speech? Leave us a comment on my blog. There you see it. Just go to CNN.com/newsroom and we will share some of your comments a little later in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: And welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM, 25 minutes after the hour.
I'm Tony Harris.
Calling for a new beginning between the United States and Islam, President Obama speaks directly to the Muslim people. He kicked off his speech in Cairo with the Arabic greeting of, "Assalamu Alaikum," or "Peace be with you," and interspersed it with quotes from the Quran.
We are bringing you major portions of the president's speech throughout the hour. Here he focuses on religious freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia where devoted Christians worshipped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country.
That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul.
This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive. But it's being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith.
The richness of religious diversity must be upheld, whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.
And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which people protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation.
That's why I'm committed to work with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat. Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear.
We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism. In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations.
Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service so bridges between peoples lead to action, whether it is combating malaria in Africa or providing relief after a natural disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: President Obama calling for unity among Christians, Muslims and Jews. How is that message being received?
Joining me from Capitol Hill, Representative Andre Carson, the Indiana lawmaker, just one of two Muslims in Congress.
Good to see you again, sir. Thanks for joining me again today.
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: What a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Tony.
HARRIS: Well, Representative Carson, the president wanted to reset America's relationship with the Muslim world with his speech. How did he do?
CARSON: Awesome, A plus. The speech was phenomenal, the speech was right on time, Tony. And it is what America needs to hear and the world needs to hear in terms of moving forward and healing some of the wounds that were created in the past eight years.
HARRIS: Well, let me jump in very quickly and ask you to give me a key moment in the speech for you that leads you to that positive assessment.
CARSON: You know, I love that the president acknowledged that Islam is a monotheistic faith, but he also acknowledged that Muslims are not a monolithic group. And it's critically important to get away from our tendency as human beings to generalize and put people into boxes. He recognized that there are divisions within the Islamic faith and between Muslims, and he also addressed the misconceptions about Islam and how America, since America's inception, holds a great deal of debt to the Islamic religion.
HARRIS: So after this speech. I'm just sort of curious, it sounds like you thought it was fair and balanced. I should ask it as a question. I'm wondering which side of the Palestinian-Israeli equation do you think is feeling the most pressure sort of to break from past approaches to seemingly this intractable problem of Mideast peace?
CARSON: Well, the President was very firm with Israeli brothers and sisters about halting the expansion of the settlements. He was equally as firm with Palestinian brothers and sisters about activities there, particularly with Hamas. So in this situation, both sides are going to have to come to a solution. But it's powerful to have an objective critique come from the president of the United States with his experience and with his insight to help move this process forward.
HARRIS: Let me turn to a couple of personal questions here. I'm curious -- the president talked about the September 11 attacks. How would you describe your life as an American Muslim in the days immediately after those attacks? And even the years after those attacks?
CARSON: Well, coming from law enforcement, the workplace was a different place. I can recall going to the range with some of my dear colleagues from different parts of the great state of Indiana who are still friends today. But there are some who replace the targets with pictures of Osama bin Laden and Muslim figures. And that caused a bit of discomfort for me as a Muslim in trying to clear any stereotypes that may have existed while trying to clear stereotypes that have existed as an African-American, I had double duty on clearing stereotypes about both being a Muslim and an African-American. So I love that the president is moving forward with bringing about the kinds of dialogues...
HARRIS: Yes, you lead me to my next question. How much do you see life changing for Muslims in America moving forward with the election of, let's say it, Barack Hussein Obama, a man who is African, American, Christian, from a Muslim father.
CARSON: Absolutely. We're moving forward. Muslims have made great contributions. I was so pleased to see him mention my dear friend and colleague, Congressman Ellison, the first member of Congress who took his oath on the Quran. Mentioning Muhammad Ali -- we have a bill up to honor Muhammad Ali, giving him a congressional gold medal. He recognizes that Muslims have made a great contribution from Eham A.W. Muhammad's community (ph), Hamza Yussuf out on the west coast to even Judge David Shaheed (ph) out of Indianapolis. So Muslims are involved in all sectors of life in this country.
HARRIS: Okay, Representative Carson, thanks for your time for the last couple of days. Appreciate it.
CARSON: Always a pleasure.
HARRIS: Thank you.
Next hour, you will hear from a Republican representative from Indiana. Congressman Mike Pence will join me live with his reaction to President Obama's speech to Muslims. That's noon eastern right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
But straight ahead, President Obama also talked about the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. But one iReporter says it wasn't enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY DEOL, IREPORTER: I'm sure you've won many hearts and minds in the Arab world. But your speech lacked, as feared, any concrete plan (ph). While you can appeal to the broader human decency, the fact remains that as you may be speaking in Cairo, at the same time there was a construction worker putting up a new roof in a new Israeli settlement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: We will go live to Jerusalem right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: President Barack Obama calling for a new beginning between the U.S. and the Muslim world. This hour, we are bringing you major portions of the president's long-awaited speech today in Cairo, Egypt today. In his remarks, he talked about one of the most pressing issues in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For decades, then, there's been a stalemate. Two peoples with legitimate aspirations. Each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive.
It's easy to point fingers. For Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth. The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met. Through two states where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interests, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all of the patience and dedication that the task requires. The obligations, the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them and all of us to live up to our responsibilities. Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to south Asia. From eastern Europe to Indonesia.
It's a story with a simple truth. Violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed. That's how it is surrendered. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian authority must develop its capacity to govern with institutions that serve the needs of its people.
Hamas does have support among some Palestinians. But they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in filling Palestinian aspirations. To unify the Palestinian people. Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge the justice. Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.
This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security, neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace. And Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab peace initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace. And we will say in public what we say in private.
To Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace, but privately many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: President Obama saying it is time to act on ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Let's get reactions from our Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem. Paula, first of all, generally speaking, what are you hearing?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very mixed reaction. Let's start off with the Palestinian reaction. We were in a Ramallah cafe, and for the most part, Palestinians were saying, "Good start, but we need more details. We need more information about how the U.S. and Mr. Obama is going to try and stop Israel building settlements."
And we also heard from some Palestinians that if the Palestinian rocket hitting Israeli towns and killing sleeping children was mentioned, why wasn't the Israeli mission in Gaza mentioned also? But for the most part, they are positive, they believe that Mr. Obama's serious about one thing to make peace, they're just not sure how he's going to go about it.
Then on the Israeli side, we're in a Jerusalem cafe, as well. And the quotes I got from there are, "He was he was even-handed, he was balanced." And also he emotionally hit a note when he was talking about Holocaust deniers, calling them baseless, ignorant and hateful. But it is important to mention the settlers' opinion. These are the Israelis...
HARRIS: Yes, yes.
HANCOCKS: ... and the settlers in the West Bank. Of course, Mr. Obama said those settlements have to stop. We have a quote from the spokesperson of Yesshir (ph) council saying, "Beautiful speech, but have no substance. And it is frightening if he believes what he said." Also saying earlier that, "Hussein Obama has given priority to Arab lies." That was another quote from them. So a very mixed reaction here.
HARRIS: Paula, I have a couple of questions, I don't have time to ask them. Maybe we will talk about this next hour because the settlement issue is right there. And we need some time to drill down on that.
Paula Hancocks for us in Jerusalem there. Paula, appreciate it. Thank you.
We will continue airing portions of President Obama's speech. But right now we want to hear from you. What do you think about the speech from the president? Leave us a comment and we will share some of them later in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: All around the world, people were watching, blogging, Tweeting and generally sharing during the president's speech. That's partly because the White House reached out to people in a whole new way. Josh Levs is tracking that part of the story for us this morning. Good to see you, Josh.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you too, Tony. It's really interesting. Let's zoom right in. White House.gov has had all of this reach out. Unlike anything we've seen before.
Over here at the CNN Political Ticker, Ed henry actually talks to you about it, Facebook and texting. There's one site I want to show you right now, America.gov, where people around the world sign up for the instant text messages. I'm going to scroll down. Check it out, you can get this in English or Arabic - also Urdu and Persian, and in each case, people around the world signing up for these instant text messages directly from the White House saying, "Hey, the speech is coming up here, key parts of it." One of the many ways the White House is reaching out.
HARRIS: What are we hearing from our viewers about the speech?
LEVS: We're hearing a lot. I know we're going to see more next hour. Let me give you a taste of what we've got right here. CNN.com/newsroom. Let's zoom in. I'm going to show you a couple of the responses here. Just click on Tony.
Nina Jones says "Boy, am I proud of our United States. Obama makes us look so smart." Jade here, "President Obama is catalytic. It only requires one voice to spark major change." But over here, Tony, Kay writes, "I heard President Obama promise my tax dollars to the Middle East. Where are we going to hear about contributions from the fabulously wealthy Middle East families to help build roads, hospitals, schools, et cetera?"
So you can see we're hearing from both sides, really, lots of different sides. Keep it coming here. We'll read more next hour.
HARRIS: Let's talk more next hour, Josh.
LEVS: You got it.
HARRIS: From the Web inside the room to reaction from across the United States, you can hear it right here.
HARRIS: President Obama is challenging young people to change the world. Can his message bring about that change? Joining me here in Atlanta, Dr. Farah Khan, a Muslim-American who helped on the Obama campaign. From Austin, Texas, journalist Shahed Amanullah, editor in chief of AltMuslim.com. And joining us from Washington, Muslim- American Nura Sediqe.
Dr. Khan, let me start with you. The president on this trip, in this speech, essentially wanted to press the reset button on Muslim- American relations. How did he do?
DR. FARAH KHAN, HELPED ON OBAMA CAMPAIGN: I think he did wonderfully. I think this is exactly what we needed to have a dialogue opened about Americans. HARRIS: I need the key moment in the speech for you that leads you to that assessment. What resonated for you?
KHAN: You know, that he came to Egypt to speak to people, to say that he respects Muslims. He just spoke about a common humanity that Americans have that includes Muslim-Americans, that includes everyone. And he really gave us an example of how we can just be tolerant of each other.
HARRIS: Well, let's kick the question around a little bit. Shahed, I want to know what did you think of the president's speech?
SHAHED AMANULLAH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ALTMUSLIM.COM: Well, I thought he accomplished exactly what he needed to accomplish. The relationship between Muslim communities and America has been so stagnant and so fraught with misunderstanding we needed to reboot it. He focused in on that, he didn't get distracted from other things, and he laid the ground work for what I hope will be additional change...
HARRIS: But Shahed, give me the moment for you because we're all sort of parsing this. What was the moment that clearly said to you, "Hey, you know what? This was the president's objective, and in this moment he is meeting that objective." Was there a moment?
AMANULLAH: I think the moment for me was when he was really pressing for people to say in public what they say in private. Everybody knows what the solutions to a lot of these problems are, and I think there's vast agreement on what they're going to be, but nobody really talks about it and puts the cards on the table. When he really said it that way, put the cards on the table, I think that was the moment where people, I think, were finally on the same page.
HARRIS: And Nura Sediqe, what did you think of the president's speech, and was there a particular moment that resonated for you?
NURA SEDIQE, MUSLIM AMERICAN: I thought the speech was absolutely refreshing. It is great to hear our leader speak to the Muslim community and really acknowledge the contributions that Muslims make, specifically Muslim-Americans. As a Muslim-American growing up here, we search for someone to really acknowledge you are contributing to the community. That was really great.
I think one defining moment for me was when he brought up the history of Muslims in America, how Morocco was the first company to acknowledge the independence of the U.S. And that's even something that Muslim Americans and Muslims may not know -- just the rich history of Muslim contributions to the U.S. And to someone that is a student of history, that was really great to hear my own president really acknowledging that and sharing that with the rest of the community.
HARRIS: Doctor Khan, yes, 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, but you know, it's too much focus by the American president on Muslims and how Muslims feel and how they feel about Americans. Go beyond this. You know what? The American president was a little too tough on Israel. This idea of freezing settlements, it's too much. The government and Israel is saying it's too much of a bridge we can't meet. You're being too tough on us. Your thoughts on it -- balance in the speech.
KHAN: Balance is exactly what he did. He spoke about what he thought the Israelis should do and what the Palestinians should do. The most beautiful thing was that he said that we can acknowledge that there's a lot of problems and things that we've done to each other in the past, but we acknowledge it and then we have to move forward...
KHAN: ... and if we can't move beyond those historic hates that we have, then we'll never be able to achieve peace.
HARRIS: Shahed, what did you think? Is there a chance here that this speech might actually galvanize --galvanize the moderates in the Muslim world to reach back to the president?
AMANULLAH: Yes. I do think that the ball is firmly in the court of Muslim peoples around the world to respond accordingly. That will in turn give the president more leverage here at home to continue down this path. And I think that he definitely struck that right tone in order to get that -- I mean, to give, for example, President Bush some credit, he tried to go down this path, but he didn't speak the same language that Obama did. The president, I think --
HARRIS: Is that what it comes down to? Nura, is that what it comes down to? The message is essentially the same, but it's a more appealing messenger who strikes a better tone and uses better language?
SEDIQE: He's honest, and he actually acknowledges Muslim contributions. And there's a lot of things, I'm sure -- it's about making the private public, like he said. He's publicly acknowledging Muslim-Americans and Muslims and their contributions. That's something that we've seen lacking in prior administrations.
HARRIS: I've got a question for each of you. I don't know if I can get to each of you for your comments.
Doctor, let me start with you. How would you describe your life in the days, months, years after 9/11? I'm wondering what you're thinking today with this country and the numbers that people across this country voted -- blacks, whites, younger folks, older folks -- voted for this president. How do you see your life as a Muslim- American?
KHAN: I think this speech was the change that everybody was looking for, a different tone. We Muslim Americans -- right now when people think of a Muslim, especially right after 9/11, they think of orange jumpsuited detainees at Guantanamo. But I'm a Muslim American. And there are moms, dads, we're PTA members, we're dentists, we're teachers, we're engineers, we contribute to society, we teach love of country to our children. I love America.
Being a Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive, and there is no other country than America that I could practice my religion with so much freedom. And I think this speech is the beginning of a new dialogue for Muslims.
HARRIS: And Nura Sediqe, that same question to you. How do you see your life changing in America, moving forward with the election of this president?
SEDIQE: I think there's greater room for our involvement, and I think it was absolutely beautiful that he brought up Muslim women, especially women that wear scarves, and they're no less equal than women who choose not to cover their hair. Bringing that up is great because I personally faced some discrimination wearing it, and I have to prove to other individuals that I am just as educated or just as capable as others, which is unfortunately a misperception exists within that. And he's closing that gap and it's really inspiring and empowering as a Muslim woman to see that happening.
HARRIS: Shahed Amanullah, did you want to comment very quickly?
AMANULLAH: Yes. If you told me in the days after 9/11 we would have a Muslim Congresspeople, so shortly after that event, and have the president acknowledge us, I wouldn't have believed you. But it really speaks to -- it testifies to the goodness of Americans.
HARRIS: To all of my guests, thank you. I'm so -- so long of a segment. I can't manage the clock.
Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think about president Obama's speech leave us a comment on the blog CNN.com/newsroom. We're back in a moment.