British Islamic groups gave a cautious welcome to new U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge to reach out to the Muslim world, saying his policies needed to match his words. In his inauguration address on Tuesday, Obama promised a “new way forward” based on “mutual interest and mutual respect” following tensions that followed the September 11 attacks, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. support for Israel.

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the new president’s intentions were “noble.” “I hope it ends the rift between the U.S. and the Muslim world, which has grown further and further in the last eight years,” Bari said. “As a first step, I hope the President will address the tragedy in Gaza. The strength of feeling against what the Israelis have done should not be underestimated.”

Former President George W. Bush’s foreign policy led to much anger among Muslims and is regarded by many commentators as acting as a recruiting sergeant for extremists in Britain. Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of Muslim youth organization the Ramadhan Foundation, said the fact that Obama spent time as a child in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, would help Muslims warm to him.

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