H/T: Esther at Islam in Europe
HAHN, Germany — As President Obama prepared to leave Washington to fly to the Middle East, he conducted several television and radio interviews at the White House to frame the goals for a five-day trip, including the highly-anticipated speech Thursday at Cairo University in Egypt.
In an interview with Laura Haim on Canal Plus, a French television station, Mr. Obama noted that the United States also could be considered as “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” He sought to downplay the expectations of the speech, but he said he hoped the address would raise awareness about Muslims.
“Now, I think it’s very important to understand that one speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East,” Mr. Obama said. “And so I think expectations should be somewhat modest.”
He previewed several themes and objectives for the speech, which aides said the president intended to tinker with — and rewrite — aboard Air Force One during his 12-hour flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“What I want to do is to create a better dialogue so that the Muslim world understands more effectively how the United States, but also how the West thinks about many of these difficult issues like terrorism, like democracy, to discuss the framework for what’s happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and our outreach to Iran, and also how we view the prospects for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Mr. Obama said.
The president said the United States and other parts of the Western world “have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam.”
“And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” Mr. Obama said. “And so there’s got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”
The speech on Thursday has many intended audiences, but among them are the young people in Cairo and beyond.
“I think the most important thing I want to tell young people is that, regardless of your faith, those who build as opposed to those who destroy I think leave a lasting legacy, not only for themselves but also for their nations,” Mr. Obama said. “And the impulse towards destruction as opposed to how can we study science and mathematics and restore the incredible scientific and knowledge — the output that came about during centuries of Islamic culture.”
The president is flying Air Force One directly from Washington to Riyadh. The White House press corps — traveling on a chartered United 767 — is refueling in Hahn, Germany.