Obama Cites Quran, But Message Is Interfaith

June 5, 2009

Author: Rachel Zoll

Source: Google News

Wire Service: AP


President Barack Obama showed respect for Islam by quoting from the Quran in his speech Thursday but did so in a way meant to resonate with Christians and Jews as well.

The passages he chose from the Muslim holy book had meanings that were universal in their appeal. He also referred once to the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law, and quoted a verse from the Gospel of Matthew. Both underscored the Quranic verses.

"The Holy Quran tells us, '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,'" Obama said in the Cairo address. "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.'"

To gain a hearing in Islamic society, Obama was wise to go beyond geopolitics to make some reference to religious tradition, scholars said. Religion is closely connected with the state in the Islamic world, unlike Western society where church and state are separate.

"Obama's taking that step, showing familiarity with the Quran, is the palpable demonstration of the respect he went to Cairo to show," said Burton Visotzky, a professor of interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.