President Barack Obama urges U.N. to confront roots of Muslim rage (+video)
The president said there was no way the United States would have just banned the offensive video that helped trigger the attacks, as some leaders in the Muslim world have advocated.
"Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs," Obama said.
"Moreover, as president of our country and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so," he said, drawing laughter from his audience.
Running through Obama's speech was an overall theme that leaders of the Muslim world should also stand up for freer speech and oppose those who vent their anger with violence.
"There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon or destroy a school in Tunis or cause death and destruction in Pakistan," Obama said.
"More broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab world moving to democracy," he said.
But, he added, "Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue."
"Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims — any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans."
Turning to the rising violence in Syria, Obama told the U.N. delegates, "The future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. We must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence."
"Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision — a Syria that is united and inclusive, where children don't need to fear their own government and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed— Sunnis and Alawites, Kurds and Christians."
Obama also noted some hopeful developments in the world in the nearly four years he's been in office.
"The war in Iraq is over, and our troops have come home. We have begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014," he said. "Al-Qaida has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals."
Summing up, Obama said, "true democracy — real freedom — is hard work."
Declaring it is time to leave "the call of violence and the politics of division behind," Obama said: "We cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future."
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