Monday, June 29, 2009

National Geographic Entertainment to release "Amreeka" beginning Sept. 4



Other Cities Around the U.S. Will Follow

LOS ANGELES (June 24, 2009)—National Geographic Entertainment (NGE) will release Cherien Dabis’ comedy “Amreeka” in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 4, 2009, with a national rollout to follow. “Amreeka” premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, at New Directors/New Films (a co-presentation of The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center) and in Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI prize.

“Amreeka” tells the adventures of Muna, an indomitable woman from the West Bank who moves to the promised land of small town Illinois with her teenage son, Fadi. In America, as her son navigates high school, Muna works hard and dreams of a new life. Nisreen Faour stars as Muna; Melkar Muallen plays her 16-year-old son. Also in the cast are Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat, Yussef Abu-Warda and Joseph Ziegler.

Written and directed by Dabis, “Amreeka” was produced by Christina Piovesan and Paul Barkin. Alicia Sams, Cherien Dabis and Greg Keever were executive producers; Liz Jarvis and Al-Zain Al-Sabah were co-producers. This National Geographic Entertainment Presentation is a National Geographic/Imagenation Abu Dhabi Release in association with Levantine Entertainment, A First Generation Films Production, an Alcina Pictures/Buffalo Gal Pictures/Eagle Vision Media Group Production produced in association with Manitoba Film & Music, Rotana Studios and Showtime


Earlier in her career Dabis was a recipient of a 2007 National Geographic All Roads Film Project seed grant for her short film “Make a Wish.”

National Geographic Films President Adam Leipzig said, “‘Amreeka’ is a great culture clash comedy, and with it Cherien Dabis has announced herself as one of the great new talents in film. It is both funny and moving in its depiction of the hectic work it takes to attain the American dream. This international story is a perfect fit for National Geographic as we aspire to inspire people to care about our world. Since Cherien received one of the first National Geographic All Roads grants, working with her on ‘Amreeka’ is especially exciting.”

Dabis added, “While ‘Amreeka’ is a very personal film, it’s a universal story about family, the sacrifices we make for those we love and the often elusive search for belonging. I have no doubt that we’ve found the right home for it.”



The release schedule for “Amreeka”:

Sept. 4 New York

Los Angeles

Sept. 18 Chicago

San Francisco


Washington, D.C.


New York and Los Angeles: Check local listings for additional theaters Orange County, Calif.

Sept. 25 Philadelphia





Oct. 2 Miami

Orlando, Fla.

Jacksonville, Fla.

Portland, Ore.


San Diego



Please note, as with all films, dates are subject to change. Check local listings for theaters screening the film in each city.

For group sales info, go to For more information about the film, visit

About National Geographic Entertainment

National Geographic Entertainment (NGE) includes National Geographic Films (NGF) , which co-presented the 2005 Academy Award-winning “March of the Penguins” and 2004 Oscar-nominated film “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” and National Geographic Cinema Ventures (NGCV), which released both domestically and internationally the 3-D concert film “U2 3D” in 2008 to critical acclaim. NGCV set giant-screen box office records with “Mysteries of Egypt,” and recently with “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure.” Adam Leipzig is president of NGF, Lisa Truitt is president of NGCV and Mark Katz is president of distribution of NGCV.

NGE combines into a single operating group National Geographic’s Cinema Ventures, Films, Kids Entertainment, Home Entertainment and Music & Radio. NGE is part of National Geographic Global Media, bringing together all of National Geographic’s editorial platforms in order to streamline collaboration and further support the Society's mission. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” National Geographic works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 360 million people worldwide each month through magazines, books, digital media, television, radio, music and film. It funds more than 250 scientific research, exploration and conservation projects each year and supports an education program promoting geography literacy. For more information, visit


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wild Garden Hummus Dip launches new vending machine package


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE...................................................................................................Mark Smith
June 26, 2009..............................................................................................................708-222-8330 ext 319

Wild Garden unveils new Hummus product for vending machines, schools

Chicago – Wild Garden of Chicago unveils a new vending machine-sized Hummus snack-pack this week at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) Fancy Food Show in New York.

Wild Garden Hummus Dip is one of the nation’s most popular choices for shelf-stable, healthy and great tasting hummus, a Mediterranean dip that is growing in popularity across America.

Wild Garden Hummus Dip is distributed through thousands of mainstream retailers and also ethnic specialty stores across America and in Canada, driven by consumer demand for great tasting vegan vegetarian and healthy based food products.

“Hummus is extremely healthy. It is glutton-free, high in soluble fiber which is very difficult to get in many foods. It is made from the Legume or garbanzo beans [chick peas] which are very high in fibers -- and a source of protein. Wild Garden Hummus Dip is low fat, cholesterol-free and truly Vegan vegetarian,” explained Wild Garden Vice President Mark Smith.

“We have sold Wild Garden Hummus Dip in eight varieties of flavors in a 13.4 ounce jar through retailers across North America and we have also placed a smaller-portion product in Airlines such as United, Alaska and Delta for passengers who are demanding healthy food choices.”

Smith said making Hummus “shelf-stable” through pasteurization has allowed the popular food item to leave the deli and frozen food section in stores and to go right on the store shelves competing with other popular dips.

“Shelf-stable means we have made hummus portable without the fear of spoilage. It is portable, more affordable because it does not require refrigeration until it is opened. We have made it convenient and affordable and it fits the needs of consumers in a way that grocers and food marketers are seeking,” Smith explained.

“It is the perfect size for vending machines, school lunchrooms, deli counters, fast food, restaurants, businesses of all kinds and even fits in mom’s purse when she wants to snack or give her children a healthy snack choice that they will enjoy.”

The new Wild Garden Hummus Dip vending machine package includes: 2 crackers with sesame seeds (13 grams, 35 calories) and Hummus Dip in a 1.76 ounce tetra–pack (56 grams, 63 calories).

“It is basically a meal substitute-snack on the run that is 98 calories. It is very healthy. Vegan vegetarian, very filling and it has a great taste that comes from its authentic Mediterranean recipe,” Smith said.

“There is a real demand for healthier snacks. It is real. It is not a fad any more. People are trying to find ways to cut calories and fat grams from their diets and they know the easiest way to do that is to snack more healthy. This satisfies that need consumers have. All of the retailers at the fancy Food Show are looking for this exact product. This is a lifestyle now, not a fading trend. We’re proud to showcase it.”

Wild Garden, a subsidiary of Ziyad Brothers Importing of Cicero, Illinois, will showcase the new product among many of their popular products and brands at the NASFT Fancy Food Show in New York at Booth 4810.

For more information, visit the Wild Garden Hummus Dip web site at

Note to editors: A high resolution photograph is available of the new vending machine snack pack sized Wild Garden Hummus Dip with crackers off the web site or by calling 708-222-8330.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Arab American National Museum issues book awards


Contact: Kim Silarski




Dearborn, MI (June 24, 2009) – Established American literary luminaries and compelling new voices inspired by global events are represented among the winners of the 2009 Arab American Book Award presented by the Arab American National Museum.

This national literary competition, the only one of its kind in the U.S., is designed to draw attention to books and authors dealing with the Arab American experience. The program has attracted increasing numbers of submissions in its three-year history and this year, a new award category was added for poetry.

Four winners emerged from the 35 books published during 2008 that were submitted for consideration; two honorable mentions were also selected, all by genre-specific review committees:

Winner - Fiction

A Map of Home: A Novel by Randa Jarrar

Winner - Non-Fiction

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi

Winner - Poetry (new category this year)

breaking poems by Suheir Hammad

Winner - Children/Young Adult

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye

Honorable Mentions (both Non-Fiction)

Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists: Artists of the American Mosaic by Fayeq Oweis and

Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi

Descriptions of this year’s winning books and short biographies of their authors appear below. All of these titles are available for purchase in the Museum Store, while Museum Members may check out these titles free from the AANM Library & Resource Center.

An invitation-only gala award ceremony for the winning authors, publishers and their guests will be held at the Arab American National Museum on November 7, 2009.

Submissions are currently being accepted for the 2010 Arab American Book Award. Authors and publishers may call 313.624.0223 or email for nomination forms and criteria.

The Arab American Book Award program encourages the publication and excellence of books that preserve and advance the understanding, knowledge, and resources of the Arab American community by celebrating the thoughts and lives of Arab Americans. The purpose of the Award is to inspire authors, educate readers and foster a respect and understanding of the Arab American culture.

The winning titles are chosen by groups of selected readers including respected authors, university professors, artists and AANM staff. The AANM first gave these awards in 2007 for books published in 2006.

2009 Arab American Book Award Winners

(presented to books published in 2008)

Winner: Adult Fiction

A Map of Home: A Novel
By Randa Jarrar
Other Press

Funny, charming and heartbreaking, A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar is the kind of book Tristram Shandy or Huck Finn would have narrated had they been born Egyptian-Palestinian in the 1970s. The novel features Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, who narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraq invasion), and her family’s last flight to Texas. Jarrar mixes humor with a sharp, loving portrait of an eccentric middle-class family with a daughter who endures several hardships throughout her life’s story, including the humiliation of going through a check point on a visit to her father’s home in the West Bank; the fights with her father, who wants her to become a famous professor and stay away from boys; the end of her childhood as Iraq invades Kuwait on her 13th birthday; and the scare she gives her family when she runs away from home.

Randa Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and moved to the U.S. after the first Gulf War. Her award-winning fiction has appeared in the Oxford American, Ploughshares, and numerous journals and anthologies. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, where this book won a Hopwood Award. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A Map of Home is her first novel.

Winner: Adult Non-Fiction

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America By Moustafa Bayoumi Penguin Press

How does it feel, to be a problem? W.E.B. Du Bois first posed this question in his seminal treatise The Souls of Black Folk, and now, over a century later, Moustafa Bayoumi explores the same question through the first-hand accounts of seven young Arab Americans living in Brooklyn. Their answers reveal the passions, frustrations, struggles, aspirations, and ultimately, the undeterred hope harbored by the inspiring young people featured in Bayoumi’s portraits. How Does It Feel to be a Problem? is an important and necessary book, in which Bayoumi’s subjects answer Du Bois’century-old question, just as they start to grasp how it feels to be a part of the solution.

Moustafa Bayoumi is coeditor of The Edward Said Reader and an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York, where he lives. His writing has appeared in The Best Music Writing 2006, The Nation, The London Review of Books, and The Village Voice, among several other publications.

Winner: Children or Young Adult

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Greenwillow Books

Honey. Beeswax. Pollinate. Hive. Colony. Work. Dance. Communicate. Industrious. Buzz. Sting. Cooperate. Where would we be without them? Where would we be without one another? In 82 poems and paragraphs, Naomi Shihab Nye alights on the essentials of our time - our loved ones, our dense air, our wars, our memories, our planet - and leaves us feeling curiously sweeter and profoundly soothed.

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, essayist, and novelist. She has received a Lannan Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is the author of two acclaimed novels for teens, Habibi and Going Going, and her essay "Maintenance" appeared in The Best American Essays, 1991, edited by Joyce Carol Oates. School Library Journal said of her collection of essays, Never in a Hurry, "The author has the ability to perceive and describe her surroundings so skillfully that readers are drawn into these experiences and are enriched in the process." Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as "a wandering poet." She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Winner: Poetry

breaking poems
By Suheir Hammad
Cypher Books

In breaking poems Suheir Hammad departs from her previous books with a bold and explosive style to do what the best poets have always done: create a new language. Using "break" as a trigger for every poem, Hammad destructs, constructs, and reconstructs the English language for us to hear the sound of a breath, a woman's body, a land, a culture, falling apart, broken, and put back together again.

Suheir Hammad’s work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and numerous publications. She was a co-writer and original cast member in the Tony-award winning Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. An Amherst College Aaron Copeland Fellow, she stars in the movie Salt of this Sea. The author of Born Palestinian, Born Black; Drops of This Story and Zataar Diva, Suheir has won several awards for her writing, including The Audre Lorde Poetry Award, a Van Lier Fellowship and a Sister of Fire Award.

2008 Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention: Non-Fiction

Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists: Artists of the American Mosaic By Fayeq Oweis Greenwood Press

The Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists is an exceptional volume of reference that focuses on the contribution of Arab American artists across the mediums. The book includes profiles and interviews of well known Arab American artists that have been featured in museums and galleries throughout the world, but have never before been featured in a reference book. Whether they be in traditional media such as painting and calligraphy, or more sophisticated media such as digital work and installation, the pieces highlighted in the Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists represent the rich culture of Arab Americans which attempt to capture the beauty of heritage, the struggles of growing up in war-torn countries, the identity conflicts of female artists in male-dominated societies, and the issues surrounding migration to a Western culture very different from one's own.

Fayeq Oweis is an Arab American artist and a professor of Arabic language and culture at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. He has a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on Arabic and Islamic arts. As an artist, he designed the exterior entranceway murals and the calligraphy of the dome interior of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. He has also exhibited his Arabic calligraphic compositions throughout the United States and was an artist-in-residence at the Art Institute of Chicago in February 2007.

Honorable Mention: Non-Fiction

Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation By Saree Makdisi W.W. Norton

Palestine Inside Out by Saree Makidisi depicts the day to day life of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank, and their often shocking existence under Israeli control. Through eye-opening statistics and day-by-day reports, Makdisi shows how Palestinians have seen their hopes for freedom and statehood culminate in the creation of abject “territories” comparable to open-air prisons. In devastating detail, Palestine Inside Out reveals how the “peace process” institutionalized Palestinians’ loss of control over their inner and outer lives.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves, celebrates, and educates the public on the history, life, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans. It serves as a resource to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in this country. The Arab American National Museum is a project of ACCESS, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization. Learn more at <> and <> .

The Arab American National Museum is a proud Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Read about the Affiliations program at <> .

The Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI, 48126. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday; Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for students, seniors and children 6-12; ages 5 and under, free. Call 313.582.2266 for further information.


Chicago Sister Cities event a success, 27 cities represented


Natalie Campbell, Lisa Xia
Phone: 312.744.2172, 312.744.9181
Cell: 312.718.1186

ON DALEY PLAZA, JUNE 15 – 18, 2009

CHICAGO, IL (June, 2009) – The Chicago Sister Cities International Program hosted its 4th Annual Chicago Sister Cities International Festival on Daley Plaza on June 15-18, 2009. With all 28 of our international sister cities represented, this is the only city festival that truly represented the diversity and international spirit that exists in Chicago.

As part of this year’s festival, Daley Plaza was transformed into an international village featuring authentic ethnic food, merchandise and entertainment from around the world. Visitors to the festival were able to taste Colombian empanadas and Serbian hamburgers, purchase antique African art or beaded jewelry, all while watching acrobats visiting from China, traditional Ukrainian dancers or a Japanese Koto group.

The festival featured an “International Summer Social” on Wednesday, June 17. Evening entertainment included: Chicago Aissawa Project (belly dancing) and the Choom Sarang Korean Dance Group. Guests also enjoyed culinary demos with Chef Pierre Pollin, highlighting cuisine from Paris, France.

Performances Included:

Monday, June 15, 2009
Cirque Shanghai representing Shanghai, China
Skotiabank Caribana representing Toronto, Canada
ELLAS Greek Dancers representing Athens, Greece

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Skotiabank Caribana representing Toronto, Canada
“Grandis” Folk Dance Ensemble representing Vilnius, Lithuania
Ngoma Alegre with Tierra Colombiana Folk Dancers representing Bogotá, Colombia
Cooking demo with Chef Dina Altieri representing Moscow, Russia

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 – EXTENDED HOURS!
Cesky Svaz Rock and Rullu representing Czech Republic, Prague
Sam Burckhardt Quartet representing Lucerne, Switzerland
Chicago Koto Group representing Osaka, Japan
Cooking demo with Chef Chris Quirk representing Hamburg, Germany

Thursday, June 18, 2009
Hromovytsia Ukrainian Dance Ensemble representing Kyiv, Ukraine
World Fashion Chicago celebrates Africa representing Accra, Ghana
Rhythms of India (Jai Ho) representing Delhi, India
Nordic Folk Dancers of Chicago representing Gothenburg, Sweden
Cooking demo with Chef Leo Waldmeier representing Lucerne, Switzerland

Food Vendors Included:
Sandy’s Bakery representing Belgrade, Serbia
Mazzone’s Snack Foods representing Milan, Italy
Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush representing Milan, Italy
Kasia’s Deli representing Warsaw, Poland
Las Tablas representing Bogotá, Colombia
Stella’s Market & Catering, Global
Shokolad Pastry and Café Inc. representing Kyiv, Ukraine
Bowl Square representing Busan, Republic of Korea
Kendall College, Global

Merchandise Vendors Included:
What the Traveler Saw representing Accra, Ghana
E & J Designs representing Mexico City, Mexico
Oriental Art Center representing Shenyang, China
Arabah representing Petach Tikva, Israel
Mata Traders representing Delhi, India
Jan Lee Designs representing Shanghai, China
Ten Thousand Villages–Fair Trade Goods, Global
Antique African Art representing Durban, South Africa
Fashion House representing Shenyang, China
Nuada LLC representing Galway, Ireland
Ziyadd Products representing Amman, Jordan
Casita Azul Folk Art representing Mexico City, Mexico
Chicago 2016 representing Chicago

The Chicago Sister Cities International Program provides leadership to develop, manage, and coordinate comprehensive programs and projects with Chicago’s sister cities. It aims to increase international trade, promote economic development and support exchanges in the fields of culture, education, medicine, social services, environment, and technology with its sister cities for the benefit of the City of Chicago, its residents and businesses. For more information about the Chicago Sister Cities International Program, please call (312) 744-2172 or visit

Chicago’s Sister Cities include: Accra, Ghana (1989); Amman, Jordan (2004); Athens Greece (1997); Belgrade, Serbia (2005); Birmingham, England (1993); Bogotá, Colombia (2009); Busan, Republic of Korea (2007); Casablanca, Morocco (1982); Delhi, India (2001); Durban, South Africa (1997); Galway, Ireland (1997); Gothenburg, Sweden (1987); Hamburg, Germany (1994); Kyiv, Ukraine (1991); Lahore, Pakistan (2007); Lucerne, Switzerland (1998); Mexico City, Mexico (1991); Milan, Italy (1973); Moscow, Russia (1997); Osaka, Japan (1973); Paris, France (1996); Petach Tikva, Israel (1994); Prague, Czech Republic (1990); Shanghai, China (1985); Shenyang, China (1985); Toronto, Canada (1991); Vilnius, Lithuania (1993); and Warsaw, Poland (1960)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Israeli sitcom uses stereotypes and conflict to show reality of Arab citizen life in Israel

Arab Labor: A humorous sitcom that turns tragedy into understanding

By Ray Hanania

The life of an Arab citizen is anything but funny. Just ask my relatives who live in several Israeli cities. Non-Jews in a Jewish world caught on the edge of the wall that separates Palestinians from Israelis.

Yet, that’s exactly the premise of a sitcom that was a hit last year and is in its second season on Israeli TV called “Arab Labor.”

The sitcom is the brainchild of Palestinian writer Sayed Kashua and produced by Israeli Danny Paran. Even in our everyday language, you might note, Arab citizens of Israeli are still spoken of as if they are not a part of the larger Israeli society.

A sizable 20 percent of Israel’s population, the Christian and Muslim Palestinians rarely get any real or substantive airtime on Israeli television, outside of the news reports which, like most Western media, portray them purely in a negative light.

“Arab Labor” is a mild translation of the sitcom’s Hebrew name, Avoda Aravit, which is slang for “sloppy workmanship,” a derisive stereotype of the Arabs of Israel.

Yet under all this, Kashua may have achieved one of the most brilliant portrayals of the challenging life Arabs in Israel face every day. And using humor, he may have presented it in the only way most Israelis are willing to see it, one filled with racism, suspicion, distrust and stereotypes that must be brought out into the open if they are ever to be one-day healed. Because healing is something Arabs and Israelis need very badly.

Kashua’s remarkably captivating series focuses on the life of one Arab, Amjad Aliyan (Norman Issa), a journalist working for a Hebrew language Israeli magazine. Around him are his wife (Bushra played by Clara Khoury), daughter (Maya, played by Fatma Yihye), his parents, the rascal-like Ismael (Salim Dau) and cautious Umm Amjad (Salwa Nakra). Dau happens to be the head of the Arab Theater in Haifa.

What is really impressive is how the insignificant in life becomes the symbol of the very significance of the relationship between Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis.

Each episode of the sitcom focuses on one underlying challenge set in the broader theater of life. The first episode cuts right to the chase when Amjad is driving through the checkpoints – remember, he is a “citizen” of Israel – and he wonders how is it that the Israeli soldiers know how to single him out and pull him aside for constant inspection. He asks his daughter to please make sure not to speak Arabic and greet the soldiers in English. And of course, the daughter, in her best formal and religious Arabic, warmly and effusively greets the soldiers, who immediately check all their papers.

But his Israeli friend explains the reason for his daily harassment isn’t the way he looks, dresses or “smells,” but rather the car he drives.

Amjad drives a Subaru, his friends notes. And Subarus are only driven by the most extreme Israeli settlers who wear a yarmulke on their heads, or by Arabs.

So Amjad determines to buy a new car, through his father, who negotiates a purchase price and sale price and his double-sided commissions.

But in the process of lampooning something as subtle as the car you drive, other idiosyncrasies of Arab-Israeli life emerge. If you wear a seat belt in an Israeli licensed plated car through an Arab village in Israel, you must be an Israeli undercover agent with the Shin Bet.

Amjad engages in an argument about another subtle but serious topic. Why are there more accidents in the Arab communities in Israel than in the Jewish communities? Because of Arab culture of the fact that Arab villages and cities get so little funding their roads and infrastructure are dilapidated and eroded, causing more accidents.

Only a person who lives this life can see these details and expertly turn them into a humorous debate about everyday life.

In another episode, Amjad hears from his father about an Arab shepherd who has on goat who, when the Israeli soldiers pull him over for inspection, uses his snout to pull out the shepherd’s ID card from the shepherd’s pocket. When they try to recreate the scene for the magazine story and photograph, the goat is shy. So they stage it, of course. And once everyone is gone, the goat does precisely what he was acclaimed to do.

And in another episode, Amjad and his wife discuss placing their young but clever daughter in kindergarten, rather than leaving them to learn about life from the wily roguish grandfather.

So, they enroll her at an Arab school which happens to be religious. The daughter doesn’t want to go to the school but decides to go to excess in her religious transformation to shock her father into removing her. He then takes her to an Israeli school, called the Peace School.

That sounds innocent enough until they are told they have never had an Arab enroll at the Israeli school. And yes, while the name is “Peace” they never expected it to mean it might attract Arab children to mix with the Jewish children.

Unheard of, and shocking.

Episode after episode draws the viewer through the maze of conflicts that make of the reality of Arab-Jewish life in Israel.

The sitcom is broadcast in Hebrew with English sub-titles that are easy to read and understand. Words are often mistranslated to disguise the more obvious racism that sometimes exists in dialect and speech patterns and habits.

But the biggest tragedy is that most Arabs will not be able to see “Arab Labor,” because there are no cable or TV systems that are of any real reach that can present this sitcom to the public in the United States or the in the Arab World.

The first season features 10 hilarious episodes from start to finish. You can purchase the DVD online at 300 minutes on 2 disks, the DVD sells for an bargain price of only $34.98. Or, you can purchase it from its American distributor, “Cinema Purgatorio”

I urge you to get it. Not to laugh at the foibles of human tragedy, but rather to understand through the only medium that permits understanding in the emotion-charged Arab-Israeli conflict, humor.

(An award winning Palestinian American columnist, standup comedian and Chicago radio talk show host, Ray Hanania is the 2009 Winner of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He can be reached at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2009 Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award given to Ray Hanania



June 14, 2009


Laila Mehdi Hilfinger


Family of Pioneer Journalist Dr. M.T. Mehdi announces

2009 Courage in Journalism Award recipient

(Seattle) – The family of the late Dr. Mohammad T. Mehdi, a pioneer in American Arab journalism, announced this week that the 2009 Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award has been awarded to Palestinian American journalist and radio talk show host Ray Hanania.

For more than 30 years Ray Hanania has written and reported on the story of Palestine and on the lives of Arab Americans. “I am deeply honored to receive this award,” said Hanania when he got the call from Beverlee Mehdi Bolton, chair of the award committee. “Being an Arab journalist in America has always been a tough career choice. Dr. Mehdi was my hero and always cheered me on.”

Hanania is a three-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalism Lisagor Award for Column writing and was named Best Ethnic American Columnist in America by the New America Media. He hosts the daily “Mornings with Ray Hanania” on Radio Chicago and WJJG 1530 AM, and a weekly cable television program on Comcast that reaches 145 suburban communities around Chicago. Hanania is senior columnist for the Southwest News-Herald Newspaper, writes for the, Arab News in Saudi Arabia, and is Managing Editor of

“My mother wanted me to be a doctor like many of my cousins and relatives, but as a young person I saw immediately how unfair Arabs and Muslims were mistreated by the mainstream media,” Hanania said.

The Mehdi Family established the Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award in 1999 to recognize journalists who dedicated themselves to challenging injustice in society and reflecting the principles of fairness, truthfulness and courage displayed by Dr. Mehdi, whose publication “Action Newspaper” was one of the first English and Arabic publications in the United States to speak to mainstream and American Arab issues here and abroad.

The award committee comprised of Anisa Mehdi, Janan Mehdi Chandler, Laila Mehdi Hilfinger and their mother, Beverlee Mehdi Bolton, said that Ray Hanania showed stalwart courage in a career that has spanned more than three decades, dating back to his own first contacts with Dr. Mehdi in the 1970s.

“The Mehdi family is very pleased to give this year’s award to Ray Hanania. Many in the American Arab community and in mainstream journalism know Hanania’s work well. He does not shy away from controversy, nor does he hesitate in proudly declaring his Arab heritage in his writings and in his many media enterprises,” said family spokesperson Laila Mehdi Hilfinger, a graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

“My father believed that journalism was an important profession for American Arabs and Muslims. He demonstrated that media could be a means of achieving justice, educating the uninformed, and bringing about fairness and peace,” said Anisa Mehdi, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist. “He saw media as opportunity, not enemy.”

Hanania entered journalism in 1976, publishing an American Arab newspaper called The Middle Eastern Voice in Arabic and English. His mentor was Dr. M.T. Mehdi who encouraged him to pursue journalism not as a hobby but as a career. In 1977, Hanania joined the Daily Southtown community newspaper in Chicago and quickly became its star columnist. In 1985, he was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times. Hanania covered Chicago City Hall for both newspapers from 1977 until 1991. While at City Hall, Hanania hosted a weekend live radio talk show on WLS Radio. In 1993, he launched The Villager Newspapers, 12 community papers that were later purchased by Liberty Media. Later he launched The Arab American Voice, a newspaper to record the achievements and events of the American Arab community.

“There was one light where I could find the truth and fairness and that was in the pages of Action Newspaper which was published by Mohammad Mehdi,” said Hanania, when he got the news that he was this year’s winner. “Dr. Mehdi often called to support me in staying the course. Being an Arab journalist in America has always been a tough career choice, with all the hurdles we face in light of the conflict in the Middle East. And it remains critical now. But being an Arab journalist in America in the 1970s was an even greater challenge that exacted a high price, like threats, arson, and arrest. But Dr. Mehdi stayed the course and he was a great role model for everyone who pursued journalism and who believed that a true journalist applied principle, not prejudice to issues in our society and world. I am very humbled and proud to receive this award.”

Prior awardees include former Chicago Tribune columnist Salim Muwakkil, former Chicago news anchor Mike Mansour, the staff of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East correspondent Stephen Franklin, syndicated columnist Charley Reese, the Beirut Times Newspaper, RAWI Arab Writers association, writer Joseph Zogby, syndicated columnist John Sugg, and al-Jazeera Television.

The Mehdi Courage in Journalism award comes with an $800 prize. This year’s award is co-sponsored by the Mehdi Family, the National Arab American Journalists Association (NAAJA), and by, one of the largest American Arab journalism sites on the Internet.

“I feel my father’s work is being continued through Ray Hanania. Ray has shown the same dedication, commitment and bravery as my father. It is an honor to present this award to such a treasured and worthy journalist,” said Janan Mehdi Chandler, a Toronto school teacher.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

06-10-09 Violence will not derail US Withdrawal schedule from Iraq

Minister Al-Bolani: “Timeline of U.S. Withdrawal Process Will Not Be Affected By Terrorist Operations”
Announces Plans for New Wide-Scale Iraqi Security Operations in Basra; 500,000 Iraqi Police Forces Scheduled to Deploy across the Country

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (June 10, 2009)— Signaling that the half a million Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are ready and eager to assume full control over much of Iraq’s security on June 30th, Iraq’s Minister of Interior Jawad Al-Bolani announced today that it is preparing for new wide-scale security operations in the southern Basra Province.

The security operations, which will launch in the near future, will be led by the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) ISF, in coordination with Basra’s Security Committee. The plans will comprise just one of several such operations planned throughout Iraq by the MoI in the coming months, as the Ministry’s staff of 500,000 prepares to assume sole control of much of the country's cities, towns and villages.

“The new security initiative in Basra is a testament to the strength and preparation of our security forces, who have been aggressively combating terrorism and corruption in our country for quite some time,” Interior Minister Jawad Al-Bolani said. “We are grateful for the support of our allies, but we are eager for a new chapter in Iraq’s sovereignty to begin. Iraqis are ready to take our nation back. Terrorists will not affect the timeline of U.S. withdrawal and the resumption once again of Iraqis protecting Iraqis.

Following the June 30th withdrawal of U.S. forces, the MoI has assigned the Iraqi Police to take charge of security in most of the country's major population centers, including 70% of Baghdad. The Ministry of Interior will be fully responsible for the security in seven provinces, and the remaining eight will be the joint responsibility of MoI and the Ministry of Defense. The Iraq Army, under the Ministry of Defense, will support the police in the provinces based on Iraq's three main cities of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, in the predominantly Sunni Arab western province of Al-Anbar, in Diyala and Salaheddin provinces north of the capital and in Karbala to its south.

The ISF will also gradually take responsibility for patrolling the country's 3,600 kilometers of borders, where 700 observation posts have been erected.

The Ministry of Interior has recently instituted a training program that has moved Iraq toward the goal of police primacy, where the Iraqi police maintain primary responsibility for security in the cities. As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops, the ISF presence is seen as crucial to the stability within each city.

For media inquiries on the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, please contact:
Phone: +1-212-486-7070

About the Iraqi Ministry of Interior

With 500,000 employees, the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) is the largest employer in Iraq, and coordinates, maintains and commands a growing variety of police and security-related forces, including the Iraqi Police Service, the National Police, the Department of Border Enforcement and the National Information and Investigations Agency. Jawad al-Bolani has served as Iraq's Interior Minister since his appointment in June 2006.

Monday, June 08, 2009

President Obama congratulates Lebanon's voters

Office of the Press Secretary
June 8, 2009

Statement by the President regarding the elections in Lebanon

I congratulate the people of Lebanon for holding a peaceful election yesterday. The high turnout and the candidates – too many of whom know personally the violence that has marred Lebanon – are the strongest indications yet of the Lebanese desire for security and prosperity. Once more, the people of Lebanon have demonstrated to the world their courage and the strength of their commitment to democracy.

The United States will continue to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, committed to peace, including the full implementation of all United Nations Security Council Resolutions. It is our sincere hope that the next government will continue along the path towards building a sovereign, independent and stable Lebanon.

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. Commitment to these principles of peace and moderation are the best means to secure a sovereign and prosperous Lebanon.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Arab World reactions to President Obama's speech


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release
June 6, 2009

President Obama's Speech to Muslim Communities around the World

Summary of Reactions

June 6, 2009

U.S. Embassies and Consulates and intelligence analysts submitted the following reactions to the President's speech in Cairo. The reactions are garnered from news reports in local new media and traditional media and from individual conversations.

Top Line

According to an online poll being conducted by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), reactions to US President Obama's 4 June speech in Cairo continue to be overwhelmingly positive, according to an ongoing online poll conducted by Maktoob Research. More than 75 percent of respondents in these countries who have taken part in the poll said they viewed the speech favorably. In addition, more than half thought⿿based on the President⿿s speech⿿that US policies toward the Arab world and toward their individual countries would improve. More than 40 percent agreed strongly that the US intends to promote the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state, for example, while more than 50 percent strongly agreed that the US intends to promote a solution to the Iraq war that would benefit the Arab world.

Summary of Outreach

*Over 100 viewing parties, discussions, or other events were held by embassies and consulates from Bolivia to Uzbekistan.

*Posts (embassies or consulates) "tweeted" along with the speech in 7 countries. These twitter discussions continue with hundreds of people tweeting about their reactions to the speech.

*30+ posts used Facebook to enhance outreach either ahead of the event, to chat during and after the event, or to follow wall posts and status updates. The White House Facebook page has over 236,000 fans who left thousands of comments about the speech. We had over 1200 confirmed "guests" for the online event. About 1,500 people liked our video on Muslim Americans (see it <> here) with about 235 giving us a "thumbs down".

*An estimated more than 20,000 people received information about the speech or quotes from the speech through SMS text messages.

*On our <> YouTube site, the President⿿s speech has been viewed over 550,000 times. The <> Muslims in America clip received: Arabic 10k hits, Pashto 4k hits, Punjabi 25k hits, Persian 11k hits, other languages 45k. 7 posts linked posted YouTube videos on their websites or linked to the WH video of the event.

*In Sierra Leone, the Embassy funded viewing events through 11 cinema centers so that 1,000 people would be able to watch the event who would not have otherwise been able to.

*In India, approximately 200 million Indians listened to or watched the speech live.

*Many posts hand delivered copies of the speech to Imams, politicians, and other community leaders.

*5 Ambassadors chatted online with groups watching the event

Interesting Anecdotes:

"Obama spoke clearly about the universal values we share⿦People appreciated the phrases and lines taken from the Holy Quran. Hopefully, this is not lip service only, but will be followed up with concrete action. Unfortunately, as Obama knows, achieving his goals will be difficult, because there are but few saladins in this era who genuinely want to make Palestine a holy land for all human kind, instead of one religion only." -Dalail, head of Muhammadiyah in North Sumatra, Medan, Indonesia (June 4)

The Consul-General in Sydney gathered 40 Muslim community leaders and national media to watch the speech at her residence. Sydney⿿s Muslim community is normally divided with little mixing across among the Turkish, Lebanese, and Indonesian majority groups, but President Obama⿿s speech brought them together, together with a Jewish leader the CG invited.

"I like that Obama emphasized that every nation has the right to pick its own system of government."-graduate student in China at speech-viewing program (June 4)

Manila: the day of the speech, during her trip Zamboanga in southwestern Mindanao, Ambassador Kenney talked about that evening⿿s speech to a group of 116 sixteen-to-nineteen-year-olds participating in the Cultures Across Mindanao (CAMP) youth camp, which builds understanding and peace advocacy among teenagers of different religions and cultures in Mindanao.

Eritrea: Students at an Embassy viewing were happy with the emphasis on democracy and the equality of all human beings. They were pleased with President Obama⿿s readiness to resolve disputes and differences peacefully and to engage in dialogue as opposed to violence. Some, however, felt that choosing the venue of Cairo was an endorsement of Egyptian⿿s human rights records and government. Some expressed that President Obama should have selected a venue that is in turmoil such as Somalia.

In Mexico, commentators echoed calls for actions to follow the good words of the speech, but even those could be surprisingly positive ⿿ left-wing Mexican La Jornada tempered its reaction in an editorial: "this reconciliation cannot be accomplished through a speech regardless how brilliant it was. But this change of tone makes it possible to imagine [a new era] where Bush⿿s catastrophic heritage is transcended.

In Afghanistan, we hosted events in Kabul, Herat, and Jalalabad featuring online post-speech discussion using Adobe Co.Nx. Another post-speech panel featuring fifty religious leaders and students focused on the responsibility of Afghans to respond to Obama⿿s message with responsible actions.

In Pakistan, three events in Karachi and Lahore produced positive post-speech discussion on major networks and newspapers. Commentary was very positive in recognition of the "new tone from Washington" but underscored the need for actions that match the rhetoric.

More details in key regions/countries

Afghanistan: U.S. missions hosted events in Kabul, Herat, and Jalalabad featuring online post-speech discussion using Adobe Co.Nx. A post-speech panel featuring fifty Afghan religious leaders and student focused on the responsibility of Afghans to respond to Obama⿿s message by outlining what they want for their society and a relationship with the West. The panel discussion was taped by national television carrier RTV and will air this weekend. The speech was carried live by BBC and RTV; Pasthun language Shamshad TV and Arianna-TV (Dari) will air the speech again this weekend.

*BBC Afghan Service carried the speech live with translation. VOA⿿s Radio Deewa and RFE/RL⿿s Radio Azadi both carried the speech audio live with subsequent discussion and call-in shows. Afghan reaction in those broadcasts was positive.

*State-owned RTA (national TV) aired the speech live and had exclusive coverage rights to film the subsequent panel discussion at the Government Media Information Center. It will broadcast the event in its entirety this weekend.

*Pashto language Shamshad TV and Dari language Arianna will both air the speech on Friday, both of which were made possible the timely delivery of translations.

*Advertised President Obama⿿s Speech through both Facebook (500+ fans) and Twitter (300+followers).

*New media updates and messages to national and international press included advertising and links for IIP⿿s SMS texting service, the CO.NX webchat, and Embassy Kabul⿿s webchat directly after speech.

*A post-speech webchat with Deputy Ambassador Ricciardone, Assistant Ambassador Mussomeli, and Political Chief Alan Yu answered over 40 questions from over 100 participants including those linked electronically at Lincoln Centers.

*Kabul⿿s MIST team sent SMS messages to 236 young Afghans who expressed interest in receiving information on feedback sheets from the McCurry exhibit and PD publications; invited audience to send their reactions via text message.

India: In India, home to 150 million Muslims, reaction was swift and effusive. Our missions in New Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai hosted viewing events, panel discussions, and conducted post-speech interviews with all the major Indian media. Our Public Affairs Officer in New Delhi hand-delivered a copy of the speech to the Sufi Imam, which became its own media event, featuring laudatory remarks for the President and a group of Qwaali singers praising God and the "righteous leader President Obama." It is estimated that more than 200 million Indians witnessed first-hand the speech or coverage of a discussion or event connected to the speech.

*All Indian TV channels and networks went live with President Obama⿿s speech, including the national broadcaster Doordarshan (viewership: 450 million), Aajtak (viewership: 31 million) NDTV 24X7 (viewership: 16 million), NDTV India (viewership: 26 million), Zee TV (viewership: 20 million), Star TV (viewership: 24 million), Sahara TV (viewership: 11 million), CNN-IBN (20 million) and TIMES NOW (20 million).

Lebanon: Media outlets covered the President⿿s speech extensively, despite intense attention on Sunday⿿s parliamentary election. Newspapers front-paged the speech with long segments printed in full. All outlets, excluding, as is to be expected, Hizballah⿿s Al Manar, were impressed with the skillful language and sensitivity to Muslims. Outlets highlighted the reference to Maronites in Lebanon, interpreting it as indicating Maronites are a minority, a sensitive issue here. Several commentators and editorialists raised concerns about achieving the aspirations discussed in the speech.

The speech dominated the mass media of the Middle East in a truly unprecedented manner. It was carried live by all major 24 hour Pan-Arab news networks, Israeli networks, Western-operated Persian networks, and even the Iranian-operated 24 hour Arab news network Al-Alam. Not surprisingly, Hizballah-operated Al-Manar TV, HAMAS-operated Al-Aqsa TV, Iranian national television, and Syrian national television failed to carry the speech live. However, Pro-HAMAS Al-Quds TV carried the speech live and translated in full. The full transcript of the speech was printed in dozens of newspapers throughout the region including the top two Pan-Arab newspapers out of London, Al-Hayat and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Pakistan: Three events in Karachi and Lahore produced positive post-speech discussion on major networks and newspapers. Commentary was very positive in recognition of the "new tone from Washington" but underscored the need for actions that match the rhetoric.

*Consulate Lahore hosted twenty editors, religious leaders, political figures, academics, and businesspeople for viewing and discussion. Guests all agreed it was a good, sincere speech, but called for actions that reinforce the message. One 20-year old attendee called it "the most appropriate confidence-building measure America could give the world."

*American Consulate General Karachi hosted a group of 78 for a live presentation of the speech and post-speech discussion at the Consul General⿿s Residence, including students from Karachi University, members of Rotract (youth affiliate of the Rotary Club), religious clerics, journalists and media representatives, exchange alumni and members of the business community, with an emphasis on young people. The audience was encouraged to complete feedback forms and website link set up to share their thoughts and observations on the speech. PAS distributed the IIP publication, "Obama in His Own Words;" many requests for additional books.

*Karachi also organized a viewing and discussion at the Lincoln Corner in Karachi. Fifteen students and volunteers of Jinnah University for Women and the Young Social Reformers attended the program. The speech was well received by the students and their overall impression was positive. IIP publications "Freedom of Faith" (an e-Journal) and "Mosques of America 2009" calendars were distributed to the audience.

Palestinian Territories: Palestinians warmly welcomed President Obama⿿s June 4 Address, applauded his outreach to Muslims and praised his specific comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians felt the President used the "right language" and struck a blow at extremists, such as Al Qaeda. Palestinians applauded the President⿿s repeated use of "Palestine" and his recognition of Palestinian suffering since 1948, but want more specifics on the steps he will take to realize a Palestinian state. Young Palestinians expressed this frustration more strongly than did those of an older generation. Students said they will only be confident of U.S. support when they see new actions on the ground. Older Palestinians were more willing to be patient as the Obama administration tries to achieve results. Official Palestinian Authority and PLO reactions were positive, welcoming the President⿿s strong commitment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. HAMAS said !
the speech reflected a "tangible change in ⿦rhetoric and policies" but that it was "full of contradictions."


Friday, June 05, 2009

American Muslims for Palestine: Obama did not go far enough

President Obama must recognize
the illegal occupation of Palestine

(CHICAGO, JUNE 3, 2009) - President Barack Obama is touring the Middle East this week outlining his administration's plans for peace in that region. It's ironic that his speech to the Muslim world on Thursday in Egypt occurred on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, which many point to as the cause of the current conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Obama has been leaning on Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to cease settlement expansion in the West Bank. It's a promising stance, but it doesn't go far enough to address all the issues Palestinians face on a daily basis.

To adapt a phrase from the Clinton administration, “It's the occupation, stupid.”

The United States has to recognize and articulate the truth that Israel's occupation of Palestine is illegal and is in violation of United Nations resolution 242, which firmly states Israel was not allowed to gain territory through war and that it must withdraw from the occupied territories.

For more than four decades, Palestinians have been paying a heavy price because of Israel's expansionist policies. The Six Day War displaced more than 350,000 Palestinians, adding to the already staggering number of people who were made refugees in 1948. Today, refugees and their descendents number more than 7.8 million; 40 percent of the world's refugees are Palestinians.

The Israeli Defense Force, on several occasions, has waged indiscriminate attacks as a form of collective punishment against innocent civilians, such as in the 2002 massacres in Jenin and Beit Hanoun and most recently in Gaza, where more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 were wounded. For nearly three years, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, brining the region's economy to a standstill and causing major food and medicine shortages. More than 400,000 people have no access to potable water.

A May 27 report, “West Bank Movement and Access Update,” by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, offered other grim statistics about the realities Palestinians face because of the occupation:

* Since 1967, Israeli authorities declared more than 30 percent – 676 square miles – of the West Bank – as closed military zones or nature preserves, prohibiting access to Palestinians, according to the United Nations.
* In a six-month period ending in March 2009, UN officials counted 634 checkpoints and other obstacles impeding Palestinians' free movement in the West Bank.
* Since 1967, 150 Israeli settlements have been constructed on 3 percent of the West Bank, further fragmenting the area to which Palestinians have access. In the last quarter of 2008, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported the new or ongoing construction of nearly 4,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements, a 28 percent increase over the same period in 2007. The Israeli Ministry of Housing has plans for an additional 73,000 settlement units.
* The majority – 87 percent - of the West Bank Barrier, which Palestinians refer to as the Apartheid Wall, snakes through the West. Furthermore, Israel has closed to Palestinians the land between the Wall and the Green Line (1948 boundaries). Palestinians, whose homes lie in the newly closed areas, must obtain permits from the Israeli Defense Forces in order to remain. The permits are largely denied.

The trends seen in the last year alone have “resulted in a contraction of the overall space available for Palestinian development and a decrease in the degree of control that Palestinians have over that space,” the report concluded. “The movement of Palestinians within the West Bank remains highly constrained.”

Obama is urging Israel to freeze settlements, because "part of being a good friend is being honest,” he said this week. The American Muslims for Palestine applaud Obama for his stance on settlements. However, AMP believes honest dialogue must also include heavy pressure on Israel to end the occupation or risk losing their U.S. funding. Without the financial incentive, Israel will continue to ignore Obama's requests as it has ignored international law for the past 42 years.

Kristin Szremski
Director of Media and Communications
American Muslims for Palestine
10101 S. Roberts Road, Suite
Palos Hills, IL 60465
708.598.4267 office

Thursday, June 04, 2009

President Barack Obama speech to Cairo University and the Muslim World



Cairo University
Cairo, Egypt

1:10 P.M. (Local)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand 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. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And 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. (Applause.)

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

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

I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- 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 -- (applause) -- 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. (Applause.)

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize 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, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've 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 Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)

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. (Applause.)

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) 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: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) 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 -- and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States 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. (Applause.)

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, recognizing 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. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) 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.

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of 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 to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)

Now, 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 as 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. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the 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.

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths -- but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace.

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.

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. (Applause.) 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. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- (applause) -- 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. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) 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 or forget our principles. Nine-eleven 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 traditions and 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. (Applause.)

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, it is ignorant, and it is 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've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring 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. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations -- the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge 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. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. 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 the 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 -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)

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 in fact 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 U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've 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.

I recognize 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's 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 nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) 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'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)

I know -- 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 by 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. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)

Now, there is no straight line to realize 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're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would 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.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) 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 worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy 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. (Applause.) 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, Indonesia, we've 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.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) 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. And 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. (Applause.)

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations -- including America -- this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we 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 contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously 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.

And 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 recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century -- (applause) -- and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage 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 young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person 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 more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization 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 organizations, 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 that 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 civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. 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 reimagine the world, 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's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier 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's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) 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 civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. 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 Koran 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." (Applause.)

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. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 2:05 P.M. (Local)