Lieberman Speculates Obama on Al Arabiya Was Sending a Message About America's Inclusiveness to 'Non-Believers' in Muslim World

By Penny Starr | January 29, 2009 | 6:43 PM EST

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) spoke at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., on Thursday about Afghanistan and President Barack Obama's use of "non-believers" in his inaugural address and in an interview with an Arabic television station. ( Starr)

( – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) speculated yesterday  that when President Barack Obama referred to American "non-believers" in his interview with Al-Arabiya TV earlier this week he was sending a message to non-believers in the Muslim world about America's inclusiveness.
“America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians and non-believers,” Obama said on Al-Arabiya. “Regardless of your faith, people have common hopes and common dreams.”
“I think what (Obama) was doing is really something different,” Leiberman said when asked by how Obama’s reference to non-believers might be perceived by Islamic extremists who espouse the belief that killing non-believers is justified. “It’s interesting he used that term. I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective.
“I think what the president was saying is we are a very religious nation,” said Lieberman, who spoke at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “We have Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and we have people who don’t believe in anything. They are part of us too.
“Maybe that’s what he was saying,” Lieberman said. “Not to the extremists, but to the people in the Muslim countries that may not be believers themselves, that we represent a totally inclusive form of government.”
Obama told Al-Arabiya television that the growing chorus of anti-American rhetoric from Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists is because they are “nervous.”
“They seem very nervous, exactly,” the television reporter responded. “Now tell me why they should be more nervous?”
“What that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt,” Obama said. “There’s no actions that they’ve taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.”
Obama went on to say, “Now it is my job to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect.
“I have Muslim members of my family,” Obama said. “I have lived in Muslim countries.”
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Thursday called for a “comprehensive political-military campaign plan for counterinsurgency” in Afghanistan.
He said that includes American allies contributing to the cause in Afghanistan, whether that contribution is sending troops, providing civilian support or a financial contribution.
Lieberman said President Obama might have an advantage when it comes to getting what he wants from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.
“It is an obvious and important political reality that at this moment President Obama is very popular in Europe,” Lieberman said. “One would hope that that popularity might bring forth more positive responses to American requests for further assistance from our European allies than came forth when President Bush asked for it.”
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