Obama defense on anti-Islam film challenged

Muslim leaders demanded international action to stop religious insults in a challenge to US President
Barack Obama's defense of freedom of expression at the UN General Assembly. Obama made a
strong condemnation of "violence and intolerance" in his speech at the UN headquarters on Tuesday.
He said world leaders had a duty to speak out against the deadly
attacks on Americans in the past two weeks caused by an anti-Islam
film made in the United States.
But Muslim kings and presidents and other heads of state said
Western nations must clamp down on "Islamophobia" following the
storm over the film which mocks the Prophet Mohammed.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the world's most
populous Muslim nation, said the film was another "ugly face" of
religious defamation.
Yudhoyono quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as
saying that "everyone must observe morality and public order" and
commented: "Freedom of expression is therefore not absolute."
He called for "an international instrument to effectively prevent incitement to hostility or violence
based on religions or beliefs."
King Abdullah II of Jordan, a close US ally, spoke out against the film and the violence it sparked.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari condemned what he called the "incitement of hate" against
Muslims and demanded United Nations action.
"Although we can never condone violence, the international community must not become silent
observers and should criminalize such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world
security by misusing freedom of expression," he told the assembly.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai condemned "the depravity of fanatics" who made the
"Innocence of Muslims" film which set off the storm.
"The menace of Islamophobia is a worrying phenomenon that threatens peace and co-existence," he
added in his address to the General Assembly.
Obama said he could not ban the video, reportedly made by Egyptian Copts, because of the US
Constitution which protects the right to free speech.
"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," Obama told leaders
at the UN summit.
"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 - the notion that people can resolve their
differences peacefully," he added.
Obama has sought a new start in relations with the Muslim world during his first term, but the legacy
of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where US troops will remain for more than a year have been hard
to shake off.
Stewart Patrick, a specialist on international institutions for the Council on Foreign Relations think-
tank, said the film furor had "exposed a huge fault line regarding the balance between free speech,
which obviously is healthier in the United States, and the defamation of religion, which is really a red
line for many people."
But beyond the question of freedom of speech, some Muslim leaders also say the United States has
still not gone far enough to balance its relations with Muslim nations.
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi said despite anti-US demonstrations in Cairo that US support for his
country and others that have seen Arab Spring revolutions could be a chance for a mutual show of
Over the past four decades, "Egyptian people see the blood of the Palestinians being shed. And they
see that the US administrations were biased against the interests of the Palestinians. So a sort of
hate and sort of a worry rise out of that in Egypt and in the area," Morsi said in an interview with
Charlie Rose on PBS television this week.
"The demonstrations were an expression of a high level of anger and a rejection of what is
happening," added Morsi. "And the US embassy represents the symbol of America as a people and
Obama's efforts, said the Egyptian leader, were "the opportunity to take these worries, or this hate,
out of the way and to build a new relationship based on respect, communication."

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