Obama describes Indonesia as shining example of tolerance and democracy to other Muslim countries
President speaks in Indonesian, telling students 'I've come home to the village' after returning to country he lived in as a boy
He and wife fit in visit to mosque and university before fears Air Force One will be grounded by volcanic ash force them him to fly to South Korea early
Former neighbours reveal he was known as 'chubby Barry', the naughty 'boy who runs like a duck'
U.S. President Barack Obama today vowed to try and repair relations between the West and the Muslim world in a bid to end the ‘years of mistrust’. Mr Obama, who is visiting Indonesia, also said the world’s most populous Muslim country – where he lived as a boy – was a shining example to others. In a speech peppered with Indonesian phrases, he said: ‘Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.’
Happy to be here: U.S. President Barack Obama delivering a speech at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta today. He fondly recalled the country he grew up in and peppered his speech with Indonesian phrases
Welcome 'home': Mr Obama was cheered like a rock star as audience members rushed to meet him
Cheers: Around 6,000 students in the packed hall greeted Mr Obama's speech enthusiastically
The president - who has been treated as a returning hero, in sharp contrast to the anger he has faced in America – added: ‘Indonesia is a part of me.’ Mr Obama - who later boarded a flight to South Korea for the G20 summit, after being forced to cut short visit over fears that an ash cloud from the deadly Mount Merapi volcano could prevent Air Force One from taking off - hopes to repair confidence in Muslim nations following his initial gains after entering office last year. His speech was an update to a major address he gave 17 months ago in Egypt where he declared a ‘new beginning’ in U.S.-Muslim relations after the tensions over the September 11, 2001, attacks and the former President George W Bush’s response to them.
MRS OBAMA'S MOSQUE DRESS-UP
First Lady Michelle Obama covered up during her tour of a mosque – but still managed to display some of her famous fashion sense. In a bid not to offend her hosts at Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in southeast Asia, Mrs Obama (pictured below with her husband) wore a beige animal-print headscarf. But there was a nod to her sartorial instincts in the form of beads and turquoise fringing at the neck. Though her wide-legged Stephen Burrows trouser suit was simple in cut, Mrs Obama is never one to shy away from vibrant colour, and the edgy chartreuse hue was evidence of that. She last wore the outfit by the Harlem, New York-based designer back in July. Taking off their shoes, as another sign of respect in the place of worship, she and her husband (pictured below) strolled along a carpet laid across the sprawling courtyard together. Along the way, the mosque's imam explained that a Christian church visible in the distance uses the mosque's car park during Christmas celebrations because it doesn't have enough space. A smiling Mr Obama then relayed that story to reporters. He called it an example of cooperation between the different religions in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.
Since his Cairo address, irritants remain on both sides. Al Qaeda still seeks to attack its Western enemies. Little progress has been made in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and U.S. troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Confidence in Obama has dropped in many Muslim nations as a result. ‘In the 17 months that have passed we have made some progress, but much more work remains to be done,’ Mr Obama said. Speaking to a crowd of thousand that cheered him like a rock star, he said ‘no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust’. But he promised: ‘No matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. ‘That is who we are. That is what we have done. That is what we will do.’ On the Middle East specifically, Obama said the Israeli-Palestinian peace process faces ‘enormous obstacles’ after he relaunched talks in September only to see the dialogue bogged down over disputes between the parties. ‘But let there be no doubt: we will spare no effort in working for the outcome that is just, and that is in the interest of all the parties involved: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.’ Despite having to cut short his twice-postponed trip to Indonesia, Mr Obama and his wife, Michelle, still managed to visit the capital Jakarta's national Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in southeast Asia. Taking off their shoes, as a sign of respect in the place of worship, they along a carpet laid across the sprawling courtyard together, along with the imam. He gave his speech at the University of Indonesia, where he drew rapturous applause and cheers from the mostly young audience, especially when he spoke in Indonesian. Introducing himself, he prompted laughter when he said: ‘Pulang kampung, nih,’ meaning ‘I've come home to the village’. Indonesia was the second stop on Mr Obama's four-country, ten-day tour of Asia, which will end with a visit to Japan before heading back to the U.S. on Monday. He repeated the success of his visit to India by fondly recalling the four years he spent as a boy in Indonesia, where he moved as a six-year-old with his mother in 1967. He lived in the village of Matraman-Dalam as a boy with his white American mother, Stanley Ann Durham, and his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. Far from the suave and athletic figure he cuts today, his former neighbours there remembered him as ‘chubby Barry’, the ‘boy who runs like a duck’. Djumiati Satjakoesoemah, 69, who recalled the nickname, revealed that Mr Obama attended the local school with classmates who couldn’t even afford shoes. But even then, he seemed to have one eye on his destiny. Another childhood friend, Slamet Januadi, told the New York Times that ‘Barry’ once asked a group of boys if they would rather be a president, a solider or a businessman when they grow up. He said that, although a president would have nothing, the solider could have weapons and the businessman could have money. None of the other boys said they wanted to one day be president. ‘Then Barry said he would become president and order the solider to guard him and the businessman to use his money to build him something.
A hero's return: Passenger's on a train wave and shout as Mr Obama's convoy passes a street during his visit
Respect: Mr and Mrs Obama are given a tour of the Istiqlal Mosque by imam Ali Mustafa Yacub
Opposition: Indonesian protesters outside the University of Indonesia where Mr Obama spoke
Threat: Ash spewing from Indonesia's Mount Merapi forced the Obamas to leave the country earlier than planned
We told him: ‘You cheated. You didn’t give us those details.’ ‘But we all became what we said we would,’ he added. Some of his old neighbours recalled him as being a bit of a trouble-maker. ‘Barry was so naughty that my father even scolded him one time,’ said an old classmate Sonni Gondokusumo, 49. While he was there he was under the charge of an openly gay nanny, who apparently dated the local butcher and later joined a transvestite group that entertained people with street dancing in Jakarta.
Muslim minister claims he was 'forced' to shake hands with Michelle Obama on Indonesian visit
An Indonesian politician has come under attack for shaking hands with Michelle Obama, swiftly resorting to Twitter to announce it as forced contact.
Tifatul Sembiring, the country’s information minister, flaunts his conservatism, and as a Muslim he claims to avoid touching women who aren’t related to him.
Indonesia - which has the world’s largest Islamic population, the vast majority moderate - had been debating how to handle encounters between the First Lady and observant Muslim officials far in advance of the Obamas’ arrival in the country.
Indonesian information minister Tifatul Sembiring shakes hands with the First Lady as the Obamas arrive in Jakarta. Sembiring now insists it was 'forced'
Sembiring sought to deflect criticism by claiming that Tuesday’s skin-to-skin contact was all Michelle Obama’s fault.
‘I tried to prevent [being touched] with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me [so] we touched,’ Sembiring tweeted.
Footage on YouTube shows otherwise, sparking a debate that has lit up Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the blogosphere.
The minister was among the dignitaries in a receiving line that greeted President Barack Obama and his wife as they arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday - a homecoming of sorts for the president who spent part of his childhood here.
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle walk down the red carpet as they arrive in Jakarta
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Kristiani Herawati drink a toast at a state dinner to honour the Obamas
Indonesians gathered around television sets across the country to watch the American president touch down. Children at the school he attended practised a song dedicated to him just in case he visited.
In footage of the official welcome, Sembiring appeared to share his countrymen’s enthusiasm. He smiled broadly as he shook the president’s hand and then reached with both hands to grasp Michelle Obama’s. But later he said she forced their contact.
His denial was in a response to tweets from Indonesians who noted the handshake and questioned his long-standing claims that, as a good Muslim, he restricts his contact with women.
Many posts had a ‘gotchya’ quality to them.
One female journalist - who said the minister had refused to shake her hand - gleefully noted that now he would no longer be able to wriggle out of it.
Sembiring has often tweeted controversial comments, including blaming natural disasters on a lack of morality and joking about Aids.
Modestly chic: Michelle Obama dons a headscarf as she visits mosque on Indonesia trip
Her impeccable dress sense has been praised throughout the world. So it was no surprise that Michelle Obama managed to be stylish and show respect to her Muslim hosts when she visited a mosque on her tour of Indonesia. The First Lady covered her hair with a beige animal-print scarf as she toured Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in southeast Asia.
Elegant: Michelle Obama chose an animal print scarf and modest suit as she visited the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia
Tour: Mr Obama and the Michelle were shown round the Istiqlal Mosque by Grand Imam Yaqub
But there was a nod to her sartorial instincts in the form of beads and turquoise fringing at the neck. Though her wide-legged Stephen Burrows trouser suit was simple in cut, Mrs Obama is never one to shy away from vibrant colour, and the edgy chartreuse hue was evidence of that. She last wore the outfit by the Harlem, New York-based designer back in July. Taking off their shoes, as another sign of respect in the place of worship, she and her husband strolled along a carpet laid across the sprawling courtyard together.
Along the way, the mosque's imam explained that a Christian church visible in the distance uses the mosque's car park during Christmas celebrations because it doesn't have enough space. A smiling Mr Obama then relayed that story to reporters. He called it an example of cooperation between the different religions in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.
Well-dressed: Her vibrant coloured suit was by New York based designer Stephen Burrows
Mark of respect: The President padded round in his socks while Michelle also removed her shoes