February 07, 1980
The history of Islam is very long compared to that of the United States. Islam is celebrating the first year of its 15th century. As an independent nation, we have only just entered our third. But from the beginning, the United States has enjoyed close and valued ties with the Muslim world.
A Muslim state, Morocco, was the first to recognize our independence. Our kaleidoscopic population includes a vigorous Islamic community. Many scholars from the Muslim world pursue their studies here. Centers for Islamic and Middle Eastern studies—many of which you represent-have grown up in universities all over America.
I have been struck, personally and in my experience as President, by the human and moral values which Americans as a people share with Islam. We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all commanded by Him to faith, compassion, and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests.
On the basis of both values and interests, the natural relationship between Islam and the United States is one of friendship. I affirm that friendship, both as a reality and as a goal—just as I totally reject any attempt to make moral and spiritual beliefs a barrier to understanding, rather than the bridge they can and should be.
I am determined to strengthen, not weaken, the longstanding and valued bonds of friendship and cooperation between the United States and many Muslim nations. We will lend our support to any nation working for peace and justice and to resist external domination. We will continue our efforts to help resolve peaceably—and with justice—the international disputes, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, which affect the Muslim world.
It is with profound revulsion that the world now witnesses the rejection of these principles of understanding and respect on the part of the Soviet Union. Today, in a Muslim country, Russian troops are making war against a people whose dedication to independence is as fierce as their faith.
In a time of grave danger and upheaval, I want to reaffirm what I said a few weeks ago: We have the deepest respect and reverence for Islam and all who share the faith of Islam.
Of course there is indignation among Americans today over events in one Islamic country. I share that indignation. But I can assure you that this just anger will not be twisted into a false resentment against Islam or its faithful. I say that with confidence, because a respect for religious faith is so deeply ingrained in the character of the American people.
We continue to seek the closest possible political, economic, and cultural ties with the Islamic nations and with Muslims throughout the world. That has not changed, and it will not change.