Obama slams ‘disgusting’ anti-Islam film, vows no ban on freedom of speech
Barack Obama, President of the United States of America addresses the opening of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 25 September 2012. EPA photoU.S. President Barack Obama slammed an anti-Muslim film that has sparked unrest in Muslim countries as “disgusting” but said there would be no ban on the movie while vowing to hunt down those behind an attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. envoy to Libya and three other Americans.
“I have made it clear that the U.S. government had nothing to do with this video, and 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 told the U.N. General Assembly.
“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 practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs,” Obama said, adding that his administration is determined to hunt those behind the “attack on America,” referring to the Benghazi attacks.
Obama also insisted there had been “progress” since the Arab Spring but said the recent turmoil in the Muslim world showed the hard task of achieving true democracy. “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. “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.” Obama warned that the turmoil of recent weeks showed how the path to democracy remained treacherous for many Arab Spring countries even after democratic elections.
Messages on Syria, Iran
On the Syria issue, Obama demanded “sanctions and consequences” for atrocities in Syria and said President Bashar al-Assad’s rule must come to an end. “The future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people,” Obama told the assembly.
He said the U.S. wanted 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.”
On Iran’s controversial nuclear program, the president said he wanted to resolve the dispute through diplomacy but that the time to do that was not unlimited. In a separate speech, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded international action to stop the war in Syria.