The speaker had what one might imagine, given his background, a better insight into Islam, Muslims, and the Middle East than others who had preceded him. He said he was seeking "a new beginning" that was "based on mutual interests and mutual respect" because his nation and those in the Middle East shared "common principles-principles of justice and progress, tolerance and dignity of all human beings."
He cited "civilization's debt to Islam" and noted that there were more than 1,200 mosques in this country. He declared that his nation would never be "at war with Islam" and he quoted from "the holy Koran" several times during his speech.
Five years later, noting the Islamic holiday of "Eid-al-Fitr" on July 28, he said "In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy," but the U.S. did not elect its first Muslim-American congressman until 2007. No Muslims took part in our founding.
At one point he cited his nation's "strong bonds with Israel" calling them "unbreakable." Noting the Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed, he said that "Threatening Israel with destruction-or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong" but that he deemed the situation of Palestinians "intolerable" adding that "Palestinians must abandon violence." Noting his opposition to Israeli settlements, he managed to be on both sides of the issues that divide Israel and its Palestinian opponents.
Turning his attention to Iran, he noted that "For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country", citing reasons why Iranians felt justified to feel that way. He also pointed out that Iran "has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence" against U.S troops and civilians."
"It is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point" and that preventing "a nuclear arms race in the Middle East could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path" adding that "No single nation should pick and choose which nations have nuclear weapons." Presumably he was referring to Israel which would be directly threatened, indeed destroyed, by an Iranian nuclear weapon.
While noting the "controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years" he asserted that "No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any another" despite the fact that the U.S. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq specifically to impose new governments that would not threaten the U.S. and its interests in the Middle East.
Citing religious freedom, he said that "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance" but noted that "Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's"...and fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq."