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Saturday, April 11, 2009

African Slang for HIV/AIDS Undermine Prevention / Education Efforts

Elsewhere: African Slang for H.I.V./AIDS - Schott's Vocab Blog -

April 11, 2009, 7:02 am

Elsewhere: African Slang for H.I.V./AIDS

Pejorative terms ("the worm") and euphemisms ("standing on a nail") may be undermining African efforts to promote candid and caring discussion of H.I.V. and AIDS.

In a fascinating June 2008 article, IRIN/PlusNews reported that "while many communities struggled to break the silence about H.I.V. and AIDS formally, informal or slang terms for the epidemic were proliferating." These terms, PlusNews observed, are "almost uniformly negative" and reinforce the stigma of the disease.

Below are some examples of African H.I.V./AIDS slang terms, from IRIN/PlusNews articles published in June 2008, November 2008 and April 2009.

Amesimamia Msumari | "Standing on a nail"; euphemism for being skinny … referring to AIDS-related weight loss. (Tanzania, Kiswahili.)

Ato Nai Ise | "Five and three" (5 + 3 = 8, and "eight" sounds like "AIDS"). (Nigeria, Igbo.)

Ba Mo Tshwarisiye Noga | "They threw a snake at him/her" – (refers to H.I.V.; the shock when someone discovers his or her status). (South Africa, Sepulana.)

Departure Lounge | An H.I.V.-infected person is in the departure lounge awaiting death. (Zimbabwe.)

F.T.T. | "Failure to thrive" (adapted from the medical phrase, now used to describe H.I.V.-positive children). (Zimbabwe.)

Ka-Onde-Onde | "Thing that makes you thinner and thinner." (Zambia, Nyanja.)

Kabari Salama Aalaiku | "Excuse me, grave." (Nigeria, Hausa.)

Kaleza | "Razor blade" (Refers to a person being thin as a result of AIDS-related weight loss). (Zambia, Bemba.)

Kukanyaga Miwaya | Contracting H.I.V. is like "stepping on a live wire." (Tanzania, Kiswahili.)

Ogopa | "Fear" – a word used by young men to describe H.I.V.-positive women. (Kenya, Kiswahili.)

Omukithi Gwo Paive | "The disease of the present." (Namibia, Oshiwambo.)

Onale Jwa Radio | "He/she has the disease talked about on the radio" (radio is the primary method of disseminating H.I.V./AIDS knowledge). (Botswana, Setswana.)

Pisar Na Mina | Contracting H.I.V. is like having "stepped on a landmine." (Angola, Portuguese.)

Tewo Zamani | "Sickness of this generation." (Nigeria, Hausa.)

Tracker | If you are suspected of being H.I.V. positive people say God is tracking you, like the popular southern African service that tracks and recovers stolen vehicles. (South Africa,)

Udlala Ilotto | "Playing the lotto" / ubambe ilotto – "won the lotto" (said of someone suspected of being H.I.V. positive; Lotto is the national lottery). (South Africa, Isixhosa and Isizulu.)

The Saturday Profile - A Black Imam Breaks Ground in Mecca - Biography

A Black Imam Breaks Ground in Mecca

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

"Any qualified individual, no matter what his color, no matter where from, will have a chance to be a leader, for his good and The king is trying to tell everybody that he wants to rule this land as one nation, with no racism and no segregation."

The Saturday Profile - A Black Imam Breaks Ground in Mecca - Biography -

Published: April 10, 2009

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia

TWO years ago, Sheik Adil Kalbani dreamed that he had become an imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest city.

Waking up, he dismissed the dream as a temptation to vanity. Although he is known for his fine voice, Sheik Adil is black, and the son of a poor immigrant from the Persian Gulf. Leading prayers at the Grand Mosque is an extraordinary honor, usually reserved for pure-blooded Arabs from the Saudi heartland.

So he was taken aback when the phone rang last September and a voice told him that King Abdullah had chosen him as the first black man to lead prayers in Mecca. Days later Sheik Adil's unmistakably African features and his deep baritone voice, echoing musically through the Grand Mosque, were broadcast by satellite TV to hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.

Since then, Sheik Adil has been half-jokingly dubbed the "Saudi Obama." Prominent imams are celebrities in this deeply religious country, and many have hailed his selection as more evidence of King Abdullah's cautious efforts to move Saudi Arabia toward greater openness and tolerance in the past few years.

"The king is trying to tell everybody that he wants to rule this land as one nation, with no racism and no segregation," said Sheik Adil, a heavyset and long-bearded man of 49 who has been an imam at a Riyadh mosque for 20 years. "Any qualified individual, no matter what his color, no matter where from, will have a chance to be a leader, for his good and his country's good."

Officially, it was his skill at reciting the Koran that won him the position, which he carries out — like the Grand Mosque's eight other prayer leaders — only during the holy month of Ramadan. But the racial significance of the king's gesture was unmistakable.

Sheik Adil, like most Saudis, is quick to caution that any racism here is not the fault of Islam, which preaches egalitarianism. The Prophet Muhammad himself, who founded the religion here 1,400 years ago, had black companions.

"Our Islamic history has so many famous black people," said the imam, as he sat leaning his arm on a cushion in the reception room of his home. "It is not like the West."

It is also true that Saudi Arabia is far more ethnically diverse than most Westerners realize. Saudis with Malaysian or African features are a common sight along the kingdom's west coast, the descendants of pilgrims who came here over the centuries and ended up staying. Many have prospered and even attained high positions through links to the royal family. Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, is the son of Prince Sultan and a dark-skinned concubine from southern Saudi Arabia.

But slavery was practiced here too, and was abolished only in 1962. Many traditional Arabs from Nejd, the central Saudi heartland, used to refer to all outsiders as "tarsh al bahr" — vomit from the sea. People of African descent still face some discrimination, as do most immigrants, even from other Arab countries. Many Saudis complain that the kingdom is still far too dominated by Nejd, the homeland of the royal family. There are nonracial forms of discrimination too, and many Shiite Muslims, a substantial minority, say they are not treated fairly.

"The prophet told us that social classes will remain, because of human nature," Sheik Adil said gravely. "These are part of the pre-Islamic practices that persist."

BLACK skin is not the only social obstacle Sheik Adil has overcome. His father came to Saudi Arabia in the 1950s from Ras al Khaima, in what is now the United Arab Emirates, and obtained a job as a low-level government clerk. The family had little money, and after finishing high school, Adil took a job with Saudi Arabian Airlines while attending night classes at King Saud University.

Only later did he study religion, laboriously memorizing the Koran and studying Islamic jurisprudence. In 1984 he passed the government exam to become an imam, and worked briefly at the mosque in the Riyadh airport. Four years later he won a more prominent position as the imam of the King Khalid mosque, a tall white building that is not far from one of the Intelligence Ministry's offices.

Theologically, Sheik Adil reflects the general evolution of Saudi thinking over the last two decades. During the 1980s he met Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, a leader of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He initially sympathized with their radical position and anger toward the West. Later, he said, he began to find their views narrow, especially after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now he speaks warmly of King Abdullah's new initiatives, which include efforts to moderate the power of the hard-line religious establishment and to modernize Saudi Arabia's judiciary and educational establishment. He reads Al Watan, a liberal newspaper.

"Some people in this country want everyone to be a carbon copy," Sheik Adil said. "This is not my way of thinking. You can learn from the person who is willing to criticize, to give a different point of view."

His life, like that of most imams, follows a rigid routine: he leads prayers five times a day at the mosque, then walks across the parking lot to his home, which he shares with two wives and 12 children. On Fridays, he gives a sermon as well.

HE expected it to continue that way for the rest of his life. Then in early September he woke up to hear his cellphone and land line, both ringing continuously. Stirring from bed, he heard the administrator of the Grand Mosque leaving a message. He picked up one of the phones, and heard the news that the king had selected him.

Two days later he walked into a grand reception room where he was greeted by Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca Province. Sheik Adil tried to introduce himself, but the prince cut him off with a smile: "You are known," he said.

Next, Sheik Adil was led to a table where he sat with King Abdullah and other ministers. He was too shy to address the king directly, but as he left the room he thanked him and kissed him on the nose, a traditional sign of deference.

Remembering the moment, Sheik Adil smiled and went silent. Then he pulled out his laptop and showed a visitor a YouTube clip of him reciting the Koran at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

"To recite before thousands of people, this is no problem for me," he said. "But the place, its holiness, is so different from praying anywhere else. In that shrine, there are kings, presidents and ordinary people, all being led in prayer by you as imam. It gives you a feeling of honor, and a fear of almighty God."

Muhammad al-Milfy contributed reporting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

(Gay) Rep. Jared Polis (of Colorado) Takes Iraq to Task Over Attacks on Gays

Polis takes Iraq to task over attacks on gays

From the Denver Post

Polis takes Iraq to task over attacks on gays

Posted: 04/09/2009 12:30:00 AM MDT

WASHINGTON — As Rep. Jared Polis toured Iraq this week, he had something more than security conditions or troop withdrawals on his mind: the case of a man allegedly sentenced to death in a criminal court for membership in a gay-rights group.

An openly gay member of Congress, Polis has been investigating the treatment of gays in Iraq for several months, and last week he spoke through a translator by phone to a transgender Iraqi man who said he had been arrested, beaten and raped by Ministry of Interior security forces.

Human-rights groups tracking the issue also passed Polis a letter, allegedly written from jail by a man who said he was beaten into confessing he was a member of the gay-rights group Iraqi-LGBT. The group said the man had been sentenced to death in a court in Karkh and finally executed.

"Is there anyone to help me before it is too late?" said the letter. Its author's name was being withheld to protect his family.

Polis carried some of that evidence with him to Iraq and presented State Department officials in Baghdad with a letter outlining the allegations and pressing members of the Iraqi parliament's human-rights committee.

"We will see whether the Iraqi government is serious about protecting the human rights of all Iraqis, and we can also see what role our own State Department can play in helping to protect this minority in Iraq," Polis said by phone Wednesday after leaving Iraq.

The allegations are extremely sensitive for both the Iraqi government and U.S. officials, who have dispensed billions of dollars to support the current Shiite-led regime and the new democratic era that it represents.

Iraqi officials conceded that six gay men have been killed in Sadr City in the past two weeks.

Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Iraqi police had begun a crackdown on homosexuals — whose status is illegal in Iraq — and that influential clerics have urged that they be sought out and killed.

But the killings and disappearances have so far been blamed on relatives ashamed of their family members' activities or on secretive groups associated with the country's most conservative religious elements.

Polis said the most disturbing aspect of the persecution is that the government itself may be involved.

The Boulder Democrat said that while State Department officials in Washington initially dismissed the claims of Iraqi Interior Ministry involvement, the charge d'affaires in Baghdad has requested more documentation and the chance to speak with witnesses and victims. (State Department officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.)

"We have our follow-up work to do in providing the contacts and information that we have to the State Department and, with the permission of those involved, some have agreed to have their information also given to the Iraqi government," Polis said.

'Sexual Cleansing' in Iraq / Shiite Militias Target Gays

From August 6, 2006 - Iraq Shiite Militias Now Target Gays - from UPI
From September 25, 2008 - 'Sexual Cleansing' Rampant in Iraq - from UPI

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passover bread | PRI's The World

Passover bread

April 7, 2009 |

Wednesday night marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The week-long holiday commemorates the Biblical exodus from Egypt. Just before Passover, Jews are supposed to rid their homes of bread and other so-called "leavened" foods. But in Israel... stores and factories own millions of dollars worth of the stuff. So instead of throwing it all away, they rely on a creative solution. Correspondent Daniel Estrin explains.

Estrin: The biblical story goes a little like this. in their haste to flee Egypt, the ancient Israelites couldn't wait around for their bread to rise. they baked unleavened bread and took it with them. and that's why, on Passover, observant Jews don't eat bread or any leavened foods – called hometz in Hebrew - and Rabbi Yona Metzger, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, says the prohibition isn't only on eating hometz.

Metzger: “According to Jewish law, we don't allow to keep in houses, business, every place we are owners of this place, hometz. hometz - bread, biscuits, beer also - everything that comes from flour with water.

Estrin: So what do Israeli Jews do with all the bread they haven't eaten by the time Passover rolls around? They sell it… at least metaphorically … to this man.

Hussein Jaber
Hussein Jaber

Estrin: Meet Hussein Jaber, a 44-year-old Muslim catering manager at a Jerusalem hotel. For more than a decade, he has been the country's sole buyer of all unwanted bread products.

Jaber: “I am the richest man in the country during Passover. It all goes to me.”

Estrin: Jaber looks through last year's bread contract. it includes pages and pages of signatures from Israel's supermarket chains, food companies, prisons, and private citizens. they all sign over their leavened foods to the country's chief rabbis. and the chief rabbis agree to sell it all to Jaber.

Jaber: “All the leavened food of the state of Israel, including the factories, the food on its way to Israel, on airplanes, in boats, in houses. It's all mine.”

Estrin: Maybe in a legal sense … though technically, he never takes possession of it. the original owners just put their leavened foods out of sight. Jaber pays an advance of about $ 5,000 on what's estimated to be $ 150 million worth of bread. By the end of Passover, he's supposed to come up with the rest. If he doesn't, the sale is cancelled…he gets his money back, and the ownership of the food is automatically returned to the owners.

Jaber flashes a wide grin when he says that… somehow, he never manages to come up with all the money, but he insists the contract is no game.

Jaber: “I take it seriously. It's an official document.”

Estrin: Jaber doesn't make any money off of the deal. but he does gain some prestige. his office wall is covered in framed photos of him posing with the likes of Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert.

Jaber: “Look, I know one thing, if you can help out, why not? I do it happily and with honor.”

Mr.Jaber's 'wall of fame'
Mr.Jaber's 'wall of fame'

Estrin: Now, even though Jaber owns a lot of bread this time of year, he actually enjoys eating matzah - the unleavened wafers that Jews eat during Passover.

Jaber: “One time in the year you see something different than bread. It's nice. I buy it for the house, for the kids.”

Estrin: Another Arab Israeli, Hussein Shakra, says its one of his favorite foods. His Jewish friend Michelle thinks that's a little odd.

Shakra: “I go to visit my parents in jaffa. when i went there last week, they gave me a box of matzah to eat.”
Michelle: “Your mom gives you a big box of matzah? You're a very strange Muslim.

Estrin: But many not. In fact, it's a big seller at this supermarket in the Arab village of Abu Gosh. Ismail is a cashier here.

Ismail: ”All of the Arabs like to eat matzahs, because we're not required to do it. The Jews have a religious obligation, so it's harder for them. Just as the Jews like our traditional foods, we like the matzahs.”

Ismail, the cashier with matzah
Ismail, the cashier with matzah

Estrin: A Jewish customer listening at the register raises his eyebrows. You like matzah? He asks the cashier. Then the customer explains his Passover eating habits. He says: after the 5th or 6th day, I'm sick of matzah and then I feel like getting some pita bread. so Ii come to Abu Gosh… in a way, it's a small taste of middle east interdependence.

For The World, I'm Daniel Estrin, Abu Gosh, Israel.

Iraq’s Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder -

From the NY Times - April 8, 2009

BAGHDAD — The relative freedom of a newly democratic Iraq and the recent improvement in security have allowed a gay subculture to flourish here. The response has been swift and deadly.

Full Article - Iraq’s Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder -

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

HRC Press Release: Harry Knox to Join Advocacy Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships


Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith Director Harry Knox to Join Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, announced today that HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Director Harry Knox will join the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an interfaith council of religious and secular leaders and scholars.  The council will be comprised of 25 members, each appointed to serve a one-year term.
"I am humbled by the invitation to join President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships," said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Religion and Faith Program.  "I hope this council will draw upon the richness of our unique perspectives to advise the president on policies that will improve the lives of all the people we have been called to serve.  The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the Administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development. And, of course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people."
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on February 5 to establish the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Led by Joshua Dubois, the office was created to allow religious and community leaders to make policy recommendations to the President's Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.

To learn more about the Religion & Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, visit:
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

HRC's Religion & Faith Director Joins Obama's Faith Council

HRC's Knox Added to Obama's Faith Council

By Kerry Eleveld - from the Advocate

The Human Rights Campaign's Harry Knox was appointed Monday to serve
on President Obama's 25-member advisory council for the White House
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach and antigay activist who was reportedly
being considered for the council, did not make the cut. A White House
spokesperson said Dungy declined the opportunity due to scheduling

The council will include two gay men. Fred Davie, executive director
of the New York–based Public/Private Ventures, was one of 15 people
the president originally named to the advisory council. Davie
supported Obama's candidacy and served in an advisory capacity to his

The council most certainly includes a mix of theology, ranging from
progressive to conservative. On the right are people who have promoted
antigay policies such as Frank Page, past president of the Southern
Baptist Convention, which has close ties to Exodus International.

Beyond Knox and Davie, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Reform Jewish
Movement is also a pro-LGBT ally.

And then there are the people in between.

"We have many friends on the council and a few surprising friends on
the evangelical side that are trying to be openhearted and that have
reached out to me and others about LGBT issues in recent weeks and
months," says Knox, director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program. "And
we have some folks that we are going to look forward to talking with
because they haven't always been friends," he adds.

Knox points to Joel Hunter of the Florida-based Northland Church as an
evangelical who is open to conversation. Hunter was forced to step
down as president of the Christian Coalition when he suggested the
group should expand their focus to explore the issues of poverty, the
environment, reproductive choice, and even sexuality.

"Joel Hunter has taken real risks at home with his own folks to begin
to talk about hate-crimes protections for LGB folks -- he's not yet
there on transgender issues -- but he has signed off on Third Way's
document calling for hate-crimes and employment protections for LGB

One key concern for LGBT people is that federal funds given to
faith-based organizations not be used to hire people to the exclusion
of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

"I'm certainly interested in helping the president live up to his
promise to us that no tax money will be used to discriminate," Knox

He also expressed interest in whether the council would continue the
practice of using abstinence-only education as a criterion for
receiving federal funds.

"I hope the president and the council will stay consistent with their
desire to reduce the need for abortion," Knox said, "and, of course,
that includes promoting comprehensive sex education that is
age-appropriate, and it means access to all health services for all
women at all times, and it means access to contraception."

Knox said he looked forward to his first briefing on the council's
mandates, which was to take place Monday evening, and he was hopeful
about the progress that could be made among the council's diverse

"I think the president is saying to us all -- everyone in the country
-- that it's time to sit down and really talk and work through to
solutions within the progressive and liberal frameworks that he
believes in," he said, "and those are surely fully inclusive of LGBT
people and protecting our rights and the right to choose."

According to a White House press release, the full 25-person council includes:
Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco
New York , NY

Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America
New Jersey

Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ
Los Angeles, CA

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Chicago, IL

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President-Elect, National Council of Churches USA
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President & CEO, Mexican American Catholic College
San Antonio , TX

Fred Davie, Senior Adviser, Public/Private Ventures
New York , NY

Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, Orthodox Jewish Union
Washington, DC

Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Longwood, FL

Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign
Washington, DC

Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District,
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Knoxville, TN

Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies
Washington, DC

Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, OH

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Taylors, SC

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core
Chicago, IL

Anthony Picarello, General Counsel , United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops
Washington, DC

Nancy Ratzan, Board Chair, National Council of Jewish Women
Miami, FL

Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for
Religion and Public Affairs
Winston-Salem , NC

Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism
Washington , DC

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia , PA

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria , VA

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue , WA

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big
Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia , PA

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
"Washington , DC

Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Disciples of
Christ (Christian Church)
Indianapolis, IN

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obama to Muslim World: No US War with Islam

Obama to Muslim world: No US war with Islam

Associated Press Writers - April 6, 2009

Declaring the U.S. "is not and never will be at war with Islam," President Barack Obama worked Monday to mend frayed ties with NATO ally Turkey and improve relations with the larger Muslim world.

Obama acknowledged still-raw tensions over the Iraq war but said Muslims worldwide have little in common with terrorists such as al-Qaida and have much to gain in opposing them. Reaching out, he also spoke of Muslim connections in his own background.

"We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama said in a speech to Turkey's Parliament.

It was his first visit to a predominantly Islamic nation as president, and he struck a balance between extending a hand to Muslims in general and discussing Turkey's central role in helping to bring stability to a post-war Iraq and the wider Middle East.

"Our partnership with the Muslim world is critical, not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people," he said. He portrayed terrorist groups such as al-Qaida as extremists far removed from the vast majority of Muslims.

Turkey has NATO's largest Army after the U.S., but relations between the two countries soured after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which the Turks opposed. Turkey barred U.S. forces from going through its country to attack Iraq.

Now, however, since Obama is withdrawing troops, Turkey has become more cooperative.

Sharing parts of its southern border with Iraq, Turkey's role in maintaining security will be pivotal after U.S. combat troops are gone, despite the Turks' lingering problems with Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. Turkey also has important leverage with both Afghanistan and Pakistan and has served as a broker between Israel and several Arab states.

"Turkey's greatness lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide — this is where they come together," Obama said.

He acknowledged hard feelings over Iraq. "I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced. So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam."

Obama's visit was closely watched by an Islamic world that harbored deep distrust of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, two of the biggest Arabic satellite channels, carried his remarks live.

The president invoked his own heritage: "The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country. I know, because I am one of them."

Obama's Kenyan father and grandfather were Muslims, and he spent time as a child in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population.

The president spoke for about 25 minutes from a small white-marble-and-teak rostrum in the well of a vast, airy chamber packed with Turkish lawmakers in orange leather chairs.

Except for a few instances of polite applause, the room was quiet during his speech. There was a more hearty ovation toward the end when Obama said the U.S. supports the Turkish government's battle against the Kurdish rebel group PKK, which both nations consider a terrorist group, and again when he said America was not at war with Islam. Lawmakers also applauded when Obama said the United States supports Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Ankara and Istanbul were the final scheduled stops on Obama's eight-day international tour. He began by attending the Group of 20 economic summit in London, then he celebrated NATO's 60th anniversary in Strasbourg, France, and visited the Czech Republic for a summit of European Union leaders.

Turkey is a member of both the G-20 and NATO and is trying to get into the EU with the help of the U.S.

"Some people have asked me if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a message," Obama said. "My answer is simple: Evet. Yes. Turkey is a critical ally. Turkey is an important part of Europe. And Turkey and the United States must stand together — and work together — to overcome the challenges of our time."

Obama's strong support for Turkish membership in the EU, which he reiterated on Sunday at the meeting in Prague, has chagrined some U.S. allies, including France and Germany, which contend America has no say in the matter.

Obama acknowledged the point, but said he was speaking "as a friend" of both Europe and Turkey.

"Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosporus. Centuries of shared history, culture and commerce bring you together," he said. "And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe's foundation once more."

Obama began the day paying tribute to the memory of modern Turkey's founding father. "I'm honored to pay tribute to his name," Obama said at wreath-laying ceremony during a morning visit to the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In his later remarks to Parliament, Obama said Ataturk's "greatest legacy is Turkey's strong and secular democracy, and that is the work that this assembly carries on today."

He also met, separately, with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

In a news conference with Gul, Obama stood by his 2008 assertion that Ottoman Turks carried out widespread killings of Armenians early in the 20th century. But he stopped short of repeating the word "genocide" that he has used.

"Well, my views are on the record and I have not changed views," Obama said.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in the years leading up to and during World War I, event viewed by many scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, claiming the toll has been inflated and the casualties were victims of civil war and unrest.

On the sidelines of a dinner Monday night, Obama huddled with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Armenia and Switzerland, said a senior White House official. Obama commended their efforts to bring about normalized Turkish-Armenian relations and urged them to complete the talks "with dispatch," the official said.

In his speech to Parliament — formally the Turkish Grand National Assembly — Obama said, "History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future."

"I say this as the president of a country that not too long ago made it hard for someone who looks like me to vote. But it is precisely that capacity to change that enriches our countries," said America's first black president.

Turkey maintains a small military force in Afghanistan, part of the NATO contingent working with U.S. troops to beat back the resurgent Taliban and deny al-Qaida a safe haven along lawless stretches of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Turkey's participation carries enormous symbolic importance to the Muslim world. It has offered to help the U.S. train and support Afghan security forces.

In his news conference with Gul, Obama addressed the rift in U.S. and Turkish relations over Iraq. "I do not think they ever deteriorated so far that we ceased to be friends and allies. What I hope to do is build on what is already a strong foundation," he said.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Picture of the Week: Vibrantly Islamic; Islam's Soft Revolution

Islam's Soft Revolution

A woman reads a Koran in Cairo.
Olivia Arthur / Magnum for TIME

Vibrantly Islamic

Many young Muslims today, born after the Iranian revolution but subject to the sentiments aroused by 9/11, have worked to forge an identity that is pious yet compatible with modern global trends.

Related Article.

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