Speaking before thousands in the city that helped raise him, President Barack Obama on Wednesday cited this country's transition from dictatorship to democracy as a model in an Islamic world often governed by unelected autocracies.
He also praised Indonesia — the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation — for a “spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution; symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples; and embodied in your people” as qualities worthy for all the world to emulate.
Obama received a warm welcome from the crowd of some 6,500 at the University of Indonesia, particularly when he referenced the national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity).
“We are two nations, which have travelled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag,” Obama said.
The speech was cast by White House officials as part of Obama’s continuing outreach to Muslims, which he began last year in Cairo by calling for a “new beginning” between the US and Islam.
The president concluded by departing from his prepared remarks to deliver a couple of sentences in Indonesian, thanking the crowd, before finishing with "Salaam aleikum" (peace be with you).
But Muslim views of Obama around the world have dipped in a number of countries lately.
Obama's efforts to mend relations with the Islamic world were partially overshadowed by the reopening Tuesday of a rupture between the United States and Israel, a development that reflected his administration's struggles to strike a balance that satisfies either side in the Mideast conflict.
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