Before the Turkish Parliament, President Obama has asserted that the United States "is not and never will be at war with Islam". Never mind that the war currently under way, now to be prolonged in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was early characterized by George W. Bush as a "Crusade."
President Obama has to be given some credit here. No president before him and few American political leaders have spoken warmly to Muslims. Moreover, he still faces an American population with a significant minority that persists in insisting that he is Muslim. We live in a nation where members of Congress and prominent popular speakers (almost all on the right wing) happily assert that no Muslim should be allowed to serve in Congress, that Muslims should be forced to take loyalty oaths, and worse.
As the Times noted in an April 6th story, "Mr. Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, is calculating that the benefits of demonstrating to the Muslim world that Americans are not antagonistic toward it outweigh the potential political fallout back home." It is a sobering commentary on the state of tolerance in the United States that the President must fear the political repercussions of merely seeking closer ties with another people.