“He spoke very well. His tone is very different from his predecessor,” Roman Catholic Archbishop Boniface Lele, who serves Mombasa, a diocese with a large Muslim population, told Ecumenical News International today (June 5). “I was impressed when he made it clear that not all Muslims are terrorists. That is very encouraging for people of different faiths.”
The U.S. President, whose father, Hussein Obama, came from Kongelo, a remote village in western Kenya, called for a fresh start between the United States and the Muslim world, while speaking in Cairo, Egypt, on June 4.
“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition,” said Obama.
Thousands of Christians and Muslims in his father’s home country watched him deliver the speech, which was televised live in the east African country.
“Muslims in Kenya are highly motivated by the speech. He highlighted the suffering. He suggested solutions. He called for peace,” said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the national chairman of Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council.
But some officials from the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, known as SUPKEM, urged Obama to support his address with action. “He should lead by example by removing American forces from Iraq so that Iraqi people can determine their own destiny without U.S. interference,” the Daily Nation newspapers quoted Abdullahi Kiptanui as saying.
He said as long as the United States continues taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Muslims across the world will never take the country seriously.
“I would say it [the speech] offers a good beginning in the relations between America and the Muslim world, but we need to see his words translated into action,” said Abdullahi Abdi, the national coordinator of the National Muslim Leaders Forum.
Ngao said, however, that Obama must be given a chance, because of his mixed racial background and his interaction with different faiths, which he gained from living in Indonesia as a child.