US President Barack Obama shakes the hand of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 25, 2012.    — Photo by Reuters

NEW YORK: US President Barack Obama urged the entire humanity on Tuesday to reject a disgusting video which has sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world but said that nothing justified “the death and destruction” witnessed in Pakistan last week.

Mr Obama, who is criticised at home for favouring the Muslims and in the Islamic world for not arresting the producer of the offensive video, emphasised the need for a balance between the two positions.

In his speech to the 67th UN General Assembly, President Obama urged the international community to confront the root causes of rage exploding across the Muslim world.“It will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass,” he said.

“We must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.”

Describing the blasphemous video as “crude and disgusting”, Mr Obama said he wanted to make clear that the US government had nothing to do with it.

“I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well,” he said.

“We understand why people take offence to this video because millions of our citizens are among them,” said Mr Obama while noting that America was home to millions of Muslims.

But the US president also urged Muslims not to resort to violence while registering their protest.

“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Obama referred to US Ambassador Christopher Stevens multiple times, noting that he worked tirelessly for promoting an understanding between the Arab and western worlds and gave his life for this cause.

Ambassador Stevens was killed during an attack on a US consulate in Libya earlier this month.“The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded,” Mr Obama said.

The US president explained to the Muslims what he could and could not do to suppress the hate message of the offensive video made in the United States by some Egyptians.

“I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practise free speech,” he said.

“Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offence. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs,” he explained.

“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.”

Mr Obama said that Americans had fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that they disagreed with.

“We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities,” he explained.

“The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.”

The US president also reiterated his pledge to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan as scheduled and handing over their responsibilities to the Afghans.

“We have begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened and Osama bin Laden is no more,” he said.—Masood Haider and Anwar Iqbal


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