Saviours' Day Gift 2013 Drive

Friday, June 12, 2009

Amazon Indians challenge Peru government over land - Yahoo! News

Amazon Indians challenge Peru government over land

Indians block a road during a protest against the government in Yurimaguas, AP – Indians block a road during a protest against the government in Yurimaguas, northeastern Peru, June 9, …
TARAPOTO, Peru – The Aguaruna Indians have a well-earned reputation as warriors. In pre-Columbian times they successfully resisted Inca subjugation. And during Peru's 1995 border war with Ecuador, they served as guides for the army.
Those who know them weren't surprised, then, at the fierce resistance — 23 officers were killed — when President Alan Garcia's government sent heavily armed police to clear several thousand Aguaruna and their Wampi cousins from an Amazon highway blockade.
The ensuing turmoil has set Garcia's government on a collision course with this Andean nation's indigenous peoples.
London-based Survival International, which promotes tribal rights, called Friday's melee "Peru's Tiananmen Square," comparing it to China's bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
It was Peru's worst political violence since the Shining Path guerrillas were quelled in the mid-1990s, and prompted Indian and labor groups to call a general strike for Thursday.
The strikers' demands are the same as those of the protesting Indians: that Congress revoke laws to promote oil and natural gas extraction, logging and large-scale agriculture on traditional Indian lands. Garcia decreed the laws to comply with a new U.S.-Peru free trade agreement.
"We don't get anything from this huge exploitation, which also poisons us. We've never seen any development and my community lives in poverty," local Aguaruna leader Mateo Inti told The Associated Press in Bagua, the scene of Friday's violence.
They also want Garcia and his Cabinet prosecuted for the bloodshed, which they say also killed 30 Indians. The government puts the civilian death toll at nine — outraging the Indian leaders who accuse police of burning and hiding more bodies.
"We're not taking even one step back. We haven't lost this fight," protest leader Daysi Zapata said.
Peru's government on Tuesday denied using excess force against the Indians.
"It has been irrefutably proven that the police were tortured and killed," Ambassador Maria Zavala told the Organization of American States in Washington.
She said the government has tried to negotiate with the Indian groups but that they have grown more radical.
The government filed sedition charges against Alberto Pizango — Zapata's boss in an organization representing 350,000 people from 56 Amazon nations.
Pizango took refuge Monday in the Nicaraguan Embassy and the Central American nation announced Tuesday it was granting him asylum.
Also Monday, Garcia's minister of women and social development resigned to protest the government's handling of the crisis.
Carmen Vildoso said her resignation was "for political reasons, obviously," but declined to elaborate. Cabinet chief Yehude Simon said she objected to government TV ads that show gruesome photos of slain police and claim an international conspiracy "wants to prevent Peruvians from benefiting from their oil."
Protests appeared to ease, meanwhile, on jungle highways and rivers intermittently blocked since early April by Indians who believe Garcia is trying to privatize their communal lands.
Hundreds of police reinforcements were sent to the conflict zone, where protesters let food and gasoline through a blockade on the highway linking the jungle cities of Tarapoto and Yurimaguas.
Spokesman Fernando Daffos of Perupetro, which runs the only pipeline pumping oil from Peru's jungle, said officials expected crude to resume flowing to the coast Tuesday. Protests halted the flow in late April.
The Indians have not, however, disrupted the Camisea natural gas pipeline that supplies Lima from fields in the southern interior run by a consortium led by Argentina's Pluspetrol and Texas-based Hunt Oil Co.
Garcia's rhetoric on the violence has drawn charges of racism in a country where the European-descended ruling class has long belittled Indians, who account for nearly half Peru's 28 million people.
Garcia has expressed outrage at the Indians' "barbarity" and "savagery," noting that at least seven of the slain officers were pierced with spears and some had their throats slit. Indians opposed to Garcia's pro-development policies either suffer from "elemental ignorance" or are under the sway of foreign agitators, he said.
Nelson Manrique, a Catholic University political analyst, said Garcia is trying to "deliver the Amazon to multinationals."
Garcia's first presidency ended in 1990 with hyperinflation and an unresolved conflict with fanatical Shining Path insurgents. Then a leftist, Garcia had alienated Wall Street by defaulting on foreign loans.
Now he is a free-market champion who is opening vast tracts of jungle to oil exploration by companies including France's Perenco SA, Spain's Repsol-YPF and U.S.-based ConocoPhillips. Large-scale exploration has yet to begin, however, and Peru remains a net importer of oil.
Zavala said Peru has declared "untouchable" the land of 400,000 people in the Amazon, and insisted the legislative decrees "don't affect in any way the property of the Indian peoples."
But Inti, the Aguaruna leader, said Indians fear that isn't true — and ask why they can't get titles to prove their ownership.
"My community has been asking for land titles for 25 years," Inti said. "And we only have 2 square kilometers registered."
Franklin Briceno reported from Tarapoto and Frank Bajak from Lima. Associated Press writer Carla Salazar in Lima contributed to this report.

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Flag this message Louis Farrakhan's Grand Rapids visit brings attention to the case of Edward Pinkney

Louis Farrakhan's Grand Rapids visit brings attention to the case of Edward Pinkney

by Troy Reimink | The Grand Rapids Press
Tuesday June 09, 2009, 2:53 PM

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, second from left, leaves a Grand Rapids courtroom after appearing in support Edward Pinkney, a Benton Harbor minister.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan briefly was in Grand Rapids today to support Edward Pinkney, a Benton Harbor minister who last year was sent to prison for threatening a judge.
Edward Pinkney
Pinkney, a well-known activist with the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization who came to prominence following the 2003 Benton Harbor uprising, was appealing his case at the State Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids.
It's the latest development in a complex and compelling story that has largely stayed under West Michigan's radar.
In 2005, Pinkney led a successful recall effort to unseat city council member Glenn Yarbough, whom he alleged was conspiring with Whirlpool, Benton Harbor's largest employer, to snatch up land for development. The city's newspaper, however, says the stated reason for the recall petition at the time was Yarbough's support for the city's police chief.
In any case, Pinkney was later charged with election fraud for paying off voters, and the recall was overturned. His supporters claim he was framed.
There exists a documentary titled "What's Going on in Benton Harbor?: The Trial of Reverend Pinkney" produced by supporters further examining the case.
Here's Pinkney speaking on his own behalf at a rally:
His trial in 2006 resulted in a hung jury. A new trial in 2007 resulted in felony convictions on four counts by an all-white jury. (Benton Harbor is more than 90 percent black, while Berrien County, in which the city is located, is about 82 percent white. Neighboring St. Joseph is predominantly white.)
Pinkney avoided jail (at first) but was put on probation and placed under house arrest. Doing himself no favors, he published an editorial in the Chicago People's Tribune later in 2007 that began by describing Alfred Butzbaugh, the judge who presided over his case, as a racist and ended with apocalyptic bluster:
"Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist."
The language Pinkney employed (paraphrased from the Book of Deuteronomy) was deemed threatening, a violation of his probation, and in June of last year, another Berrien County judge, Dennis Wiley, sent Pinkney to jail for three to 10 years.
While in jail, Pinkney ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate.
Later, the American Civil Liberties Union took up his case, stating the imprisonment violated Pinkney's rights to free speech, offensive or not. The ACLU negotiated Pinkney's release pending appeal, but he remains under house arrest.
Whew. Racial tension, allegations of political corruption, election tampering, ACLU, Old Testament fire and brimstone ... and we haven't even gotten to Louis Farrakhan yet.
The controversial leader spoke at a rally Friday night in Benton Harbor, where he decried the deficiency of human rights in that city and others with mostly black populations.
It's unclear what, if anything, Farrakhan did in the courtroom today. Rushed from the building and surrounded by his security entourage, he made no public statement, but still managed to drum up some warranted attention to a case free-speech watchers (and advocates for social justice and ... well, basically everyone) should follow closely.
E-mail Troy Reimink:

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Flag this message House committee subpoenas Federal Reserve

House committee subpoenas Federal Reserve

The congressional panel investigating what happened to all that bank bailout money has issued a subpoena to the Federal Reserve, asking them to hand over all documents relating to the takeover of Merrill Lynch by the Bank of America.
On January 1, BofA finalized its purchase of Merrill Lynch for just over $29.1 billion. That made the bank eligible for an additional $20 billion in federal rescue money, bringing BofA's total to some $45 billion. Now, Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY) want to know exactly what the banks and the Federal Reserve agreed to when they arranged the deal last year.
Full text of the press release from Kucinich's office:
Washington D.C. (June 8, 2009) -- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) today served a subpoena on the Federal Reserve (the Fed) to compel it to turn over documents related to Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
The full committee and Domestic Policy Subcommittee, under the leadership of Chairman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the federal government’s bailout of the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch transaction. Specific documents subpoenaed include emails, notes of conversations and other documents.
New York Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo has claimed that, in 2008, then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke strong-armed BofA into buying Merrill -- a move that, if true, could expose Paulson and Bernanke to prosecution.
Last week, news services reported that the House had asked Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. That hearing takes place on Thursday (June 11).
-- Daniel Tencer

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Pollsters Find Israeli Public Less Supportive Of Settlements

Pollsters Find Israeli Public Less Supportive Of Settlements

No Longer Admired as ‘Pioneers,’ Settlers Seen as Sectarian Threat

By Nathan Jeffay

Published June 03, 2009, issue of June 12, 2009.
In previous decades, an American president who pressured Israel to freeze settlement growth, as President Obama has done, would have riled large sections of Israel’s Jewish population. But public sympathy for settlers and the settlements is currently at an all-time low, adding a new dimension to the sometimes tense relationship between Washington and Jerusalem.
Pollsters at Tel Aviv University found on June 1 that the majority of Israelis are prepared to dismantle the settlements outside the large blocks that Israel is expected to keep in any agreement with the Palestinians. The same pollsters, who survey the Israeli public monthly, consistently find that a majority of Israelis — almost two-thirds — consider the settlements a liability rather than an asset.
In the Israeli mainstream there has been a “disassociation” from the settlements and settlers — in other words, an “absence of strong feeling” toward either, said Daniel Schueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa.
Further neutralizing opposition to Obama’s insistence on curbing “natural growth” is the general sense of lethargy in Israel. Characterized by disillusionment with the established paths of both left and right, “Israelis are generally worn out, and in the same way that today they won’t take to the streets calling for peace, they are not going to get up and fight for the settlements,” said Mitchell Barak, CEO of Keevoon Research, Strategy & Communications.
Many experts suggest that the relationship of mainstream Israel to settlers and settlements has undergone a 180-degree turn in the past two decades. “For a long time the settlers were seen among the general Israeli public as the new pioneers, going to settle the land in hard conditions, and there was appreciation,” Barak said. “But in recent years the public has become far less supportive.”
While settlements have provoked strong criticism from some on the left ever since they were established, from the start of the occupation in 1967 until the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987, the Israeli mainstream was broadly supportive. The consensus began to erode, undermined during debates on “land for peace” and as the Oslo process took hold.
What Schueftan calls the “disassociation” from settlers and the settlements was cemented during and after the second intifada, when large sections of the population no longer seemed to accept the original security rationale for settlement activity. Today, the public believes that “settlements did not stop terror and they use up Israeli resources,” said Tel Aviv University political scientist Tamar Hermann, who is in charge of her institution’s monthly opinion polls.
Another contrast between original settlement policy and today’s reality is that settlements were originally viewed as a national project, whereas now they are increasingly seen as the sectarian interest of the religious right.
The shifts in attitude have taken place toward both large settlement blocks and (in an even more marked manner) outlying settlements. Regarding practical action, though, the public draws a line between the two, and is prepared to see the outlying ones dismantled before anything happens to the larger blocks. Israelis would still need to be convinced that their country is “getting something in return” for any major evacuations, but there is no major emotional or political attachment to overcome, said Schueftan, who is a former senior security adviser to numerous Israeli prime ministers and widely regarded as the man who placed disengagement and the separation barrier on the political agenda.
One factor contributing toward this absence of strong feeling is the fact that the average Israeli is more likely to travel internationally than to visit the territories. Last year, when polling company Ma’agar Mohot, commissioned by Peace Now, asked people whether, in recent years, they had visited the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, 73% of respondents said they had not, while in the years of the occupation, tourism there was commonplace.
Settlers are acutely aware that this works against them, and last October the settler umbrella body, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, launched an annual $1.5 million public relations campaign to lure vacationing Israelis to the West Bank.
But those efforts have been drowned out by the fact that, in the past year, the West Bank has become increasingly violent, or as one lawmaker described last September, “like the Wild West.” This has included violence by Palestinians, such as a fatal attack on a 13-year-old Jewish boy in Bat Ayin in April, and an intentional upturn in the use of violence by some settlers.
Last summer radical settlers introduced “price tag,” a new campaign intended to disrupt evacuations of illegal settlement outposts by wreaking havoc on roads, burning fields, and attacking Palestinian people and property.
In a single day on June 1, as Benjamin Netanyahu pushed ahead with his promise to evacuate outposts, this strategy went into overdrive. Settlers began blocking roads and stoning Palestinian cars near Karnei Shomron, Kedumim and Yitzhar and Palestinians responded by throwing rocks at the settlers. Olive groves and fields belonging to Palestinian residents of Burin, near Yitzhar, were torched, allegedly by settlers. After soldiers and police removed three caravans from the Nahalat Yosef outpost, near Elon Moreh, settlers retaliated later in the day by torching Palestinian fields at various locations in the northern West Bank. In a statement sent to reporters, the perpetrators said this was “the price for harming our sacred land.”
Palestinians torched a Jewish field at the Havat Gilad outpost; settlers and Palestinians began throwing rocks at each other on the road near Yitzhar, and a group of young settlers blocked the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway near the entrance to Jerusalem to protest the outpost evacuations.
Some settlers have also created conflict with police and soldiers. During the June 1 settler actions, lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union alliance was arrested after he climbed onto the van in which police had locked a settler and refused to get off, claiming parliamentary immunity. Ben-Ari is now demanding a police investigation into his treatment, arguing he was beaten as he was removed from the van.
Such violence tends to alienate the Israeli mainstream. “When they start to clash with Israeli forces, they clash with people who the public think represent what is best for Israeli society and people who they think they have a certain sanctity attached to them,” said Ephraim Yaar, head of Tel Aviv University’s conflict resolution program.

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Charges dropped in black man's dragging death

Charges dropped in black man's dragging death

AP – FILE - These Oct. 28, 2008 file photos released by the Lamar County Sheriff's Office show Charles Costley,
DALLAS – Murder charges were dropped at the prosecution's request Thursday in the dragging death of a black man in east Texas, and the two white men who had been accused of killing him were released from jail.
Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley were released Thursday afternoon in Paris after a judge granted the special prosecutor's motion to dismiss the case. The two men had been charged with fatally striking 24-year-old Brandon McClelland with a pickup truck in September following a late-night beer run the three friends had made to Oklahoma.
The case was hampered by a lack of eyewitnesses and physical evidence. Last month, a gravel truck driver gave a sworn statement acknowledging he might have accidentally run over McClelland.
"After investigation, it has been determined this case should be dismissed in the interests of justice," special prosecutor Toby Shook said. "The decision is about the state of the evidence in the case as it exists today."
Shook said the investigation will continue. The gravel truck driver is unlikely to face charges.
The dismissal was met with incredulity by civil rights activists who had protested how county authorities handled the case.
"His body was dragged and nobody gets charged?" said Brenda Cherry, a Paris resident and the president of Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality. "Even if a trucker came forward, that's all it takes? Even the trucker's not charged?"
Cherry said the decision was "not surprising, but it's sad. It appears that a black man's life means nothing here in Paris."
Finley's trial had been scheduled to begin next month, with Crostley's to follow in September.
"I believed all along there was insufficiency of the evidence," said Ben Massar, Finley's attorney. "The facts in this case did not add up to these two kids being guilty of the charge."
"I think it's very simple," said David Turner, Crostley's lawyer. "These fellows didn't do it."
Finley and Crostley had been unable to post their bonds and had remained in jail since being arrested last year.
"He was very happy. He knew that this was going to happen," Massar said of Finley. "He was a little disappointed it took so long, but he was very grateful."
Authorities have said Finley, Crostley and McClelland were friends who drove across the Oklahoma state line for beer in September. They argued on the way back about whether Finley was too drunk to drive, and McClelland got out of the car to walk home.
Authorities had alleged that Finley then ran down McClelland, whose body was caught under the truck and dragged about 70 feet. His mangled body was found along a country road.
The racial implications of the case reminded some of the murder of James Byrd, who was chained by the ankles to the bumper of a pickup truck and dragged to death in 1998 in the east Texas town of Jasper. Three white men were convicted of killing him; two are on death row and the other is serving a life term.
Turner said McClelland's death "was not motivated by race or any criminal intent. It was just a tragic accident."
The case has drawn protesters from the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party. A rally last year also attracted at least one acknowledged member of the Ku Klux Klan to Paris, about 90 miles northeast of Dallas.
Deric Muhammad, a Nation of Islam member from Houston who helped organize last year's protest, called the dismissal "too see-through, too weak, too cellophane."
"I guess that's just small-town Texas law," Muhammad said.
Other recent events have raised racial tensions in Paris, which is about 73 percent white and 22 percent black.
In 2007, a black girl was sentenced to up to seven years in a juvenile prison for shoving a teacher's aide at school, while a white girl was sentenced by the same judge to probation for burning down her parents' house. This year, two black workers at a pipe fabrication facility in Paris alleged widespread racism and said supervisors failed to respond to complaints about racist graffiti, nooses and slurs.
Shook, the special prosecutor, said he spoke with McClelland's mother to tell her he was dismissing charges. Jacquline McClelland's voicemail box was full, and a friend told The Associated Press she was not at home.
"As you can imagine, Ms. McClelland is very upset over this entire process," Shook said. "She is a very brave woman and she is trying to deal with all these issues. Your heart goes out to her because she has lost her son. She is having to continue to deal with his death and having someone brought to justice in it. It is a frustrating experience."

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Obama's Speech Inspires Searches

The Buzz Log What’s hot on Yahoo! Buzz (and why)...

Our crack team of editors takes a closer look at the hottest trends on Yahoo! Buzz.
  • President Obama

    Obama's Speech Inspires Searches

    by Mike Krumboltz

    16 hours ago

President Obama made a highly anticipated visit to the Middle East earlier this week. Folks around the world listened closely to his speeches. In the end, a few words and phrases stood out, either because they were said or because they weren't even alluded to.
There were no fist bumps, but there were many interesting moments during Obama's speech in Cairo. The moment that got the most attention, in Search anyway, was Obama's use of "assalamu alaikum." Said the President: "I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum." After the speech, searches soared on the greeting, its meaning, and translation. According to the Islamic Dictionary, it literally means: "Peace be upon you." It is a shortened form of a phrase that translates to "Peace be unto you and so may the mercy of Allah and His blessings."
A blog from The Atlantic highlighted some of Obama's other phrases from the Cairo speech. It is interesting, though not particularly surprising, that the President played up his ties to Islam during his visit... something his campaign downplayed during the election. The President quoted from the Holy Koran several times, including this key quote that drew big applause: "The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind."
Just as notable was the President's omission of a very controversial word: terrorism. Politico explains that this was likely a very conscious decision on Obama's part. Instead of the "t-word" in his speech, Obama used the word "extremism" to get his point across. "Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism," Obama said. "It is an important part of promoting peace."

Information Researched By: Sister Anonymous

Full text of Obama speech in Cairo

Thursday, June 04, 2009
16:53 Mecca time, 13:53 GMT

News Middle East

Full text of Obama speech in Cairo

Obama's speech in Egypt aimed at healing a rift with the Muslim world [AFP]

I am honoured to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over 1,000 years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

"We meet at a time of 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 co-existence and co-operation, 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 globalisation 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 11th, 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. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the co-operation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon 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 of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognising that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly 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, 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.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am 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 the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam at places like Al-Azhar University that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.

Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognise my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote: "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims."

And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Quran that one of our Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: Epluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected president. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the US government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognising our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

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 am aware that some question or justify the events 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 seek no military bases there. It is agonising 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 Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

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 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, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and 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. We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is 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 have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

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 that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own.

That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honour our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighbouring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations large and small that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought 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 interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. 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 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 centre 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: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is 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 responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognise past agreements, and recognise Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as 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.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And 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 part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab states must recognise 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 recognise 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 say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognise that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognise the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons. This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against US troops and civilians.

This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realise this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

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 devout 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, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And faultlines 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 we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfil their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfil 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 cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism. Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilisations. 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.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity. I know that for many, the face of globalisation is contradictory. The internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations, including my own, this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities - those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognise that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains under-investment in these areas. I am emphasising such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programmes, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo. On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centres of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programmes that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitise records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organisations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek - a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests.

That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together. I know there are many, Muslim and non-Muslim, who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort that we are fated to disagree, and civilisations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply sceptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country, you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world. All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time.

The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort, to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilisation, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Quran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another." The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you and may God's peace be upon you.

Information Researched By: Sister Anonymous