Former President Jimmy Carter speaks during his keynote speech, Saturday Aug. 30, 2014, during the 51st Islamic Society of North America Annual Convention at Cobo Hall in Detroit. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Detroit— During a speech at the annual convention for the Islamic Society of North America on Saturday, former President Jimmy Carter said peace between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East is a dream he still prays can be achieved.
“You can’t bring peace to the Middle East without justice and human rights for the Palestinians,” Carter told a packed hall at Cobo Center. “When my prayers are answered and we have peace in that Holy Land then the Israelis and all their neighbors will be blessed to live in peace and prosperity.”
Carter spoke mainly about preventing violence against women and girls, encouraging all present to fight for equal rights for both sexes.
“One thing that all men can do is to be sure that you treat your wife as you would like to be treated yourself,” Carter said, amid cheers. “My hope is all Christians, all Muslims, all people of other faiths, even those who don’t have one, will join in this crusade to end the plight of our wives, our sisters, our daughters.”
He spoke at length about prostitution, rape on college campuses, female genital mutilation and parents in some countries strangling their daughters because they want to have sons. The audience of men, women and children were rapt and responded with applause when he quoted verses from the Quran and the Bible illustrating the equality of the sexes.
“Men and women are created equally from one soul,” Carter said. “If you were taught by your parents or you believe you’re superior to your wife just because you’re a man, Allah says your wrong.”
At an earlier luncheon on Saturday Carter detailed the work his foundation does and told Muslim Americans to bring peace and justice to all those around them.
“We are all Americans in a system that allows basic human rights: peace, justice and the ability to treat each other as equals,” Carter told a crowd of about 1,000 who had paid $200 a plate to attend the fundraiser luncheon. “I hope all of you will use the principals of Allah to bring peace and justice to all.”
Hazim Bata, ISNA’s new executive director and CEO, said he was humbled to be in the presence of Carter.
“President Carter has spent his entire life helping others around him just as all of you have helped those around you and paved the way for the next generation,” Bata told the crowd at the luncheon.
The former president detailed the work that his foundation, the Carter Center, does around the world. In addition to working to eradicate disease, promoting human rights and monitoring elections to make sure they are fair, Carter said a major role is to work for peace in the Middle East, a statement that earned him hearty applause.
“We continue to meet with the people in the Middle East to bring peace and justice to the people,” said Carter.
He said the Carter Center meets with parties that the U.S. Government or the U.N. won’t negotiate with. He said the goal has always been for Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories.
A one state solution “would be a very serious catastrophe,” he said.
The former President said his foundation has been working to assure fair treatment for Muslims, Arab Americans and all people who may have been persecuted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, calling the government’s response “a miscarriage of justice.”
“We need to close Guantanamo and restore America to its previous status of respecting everyone,” he said.
Carter was the 39th president of the United States, serving one term from 1977 to 1981. He turns 90 on October 1.