NEW YORK (AP) – President Barack Obama showed respect for Islam by quoting from the Quran in his speech Thursday but did so in a way meant to resonate with Christians and Jews as well.

The passages he chose from the Muslim holy book had meanings that were universal in their appeal. He also referred once to the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law, and quoted a verse from the Gospel of Matthew. Both underscored the Quranic verses.

“The Holy Quran tells us, ‘Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another,”‘ Obama said in the Cairo address. “The Talmud tells us, ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ The Holy Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”‘

To gain a hearing in Islamic society, Obama was wise to go beyond geopolitics to make some reference to religious tradition, scholars said.

Religion is closely connected with the state in the Islamic world, unlike Western society where church and state are separate.

“Obama’s taking that step, showing familiarity with the Quran, is the palpable demonstration of the respect he went to Cairo to show,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor of interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Obama, who embraced Christianity as an adult, had a Kenyan father who was Muslim. As a child, the president lived for a time in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, and noted his experience in the country in his address.

Imam Yahya Hendi, a Georgetown University chaplain who specializes in Quranic translation, said the first Quranic passage that Obama cited effectively framed a frank speech. The president said, “As the Holy Quran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.”‘

“It says, ‘I’m going to be truthful,”‘ Hendi said. “It says, ‘Sometimes the truth is painful. I’m going to take you to it and some of it will be painful.’ For me, that was good.”

He noted a passage that Islamic leaders often cite to dissuade Muslims from using religious teachings as justification for suicide bombing and terrorist attacks. “The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent,” Obama said, “it is as if (he) has killed all mankind.”

Obama also referred to a miracle called al-Isra, or the Night Journey, a significant event from the Quran. According to Muslim tradition, an angel took the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and the heavens, where Muhammad prayed with the prophets, including Moses and Jesus. Obama noted the al-Isra story in the speech when addressing the future of Jerusalem, saying the city should be “a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together.”

He continued, “There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

Paul Martindale, who teaches Islamic studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school near Boston, said Christian minorities in predominantly Muslim countries likely would find Obama’s religious plea naive. Many Muslim countries do not allow religious freedom and have persecuted religious minorities.

But Martindale said Christians understand that Obama’s goal was political, not religious, and he praised the president for making a distinction between extremists and other Muslims.

“He addressed all the issues and problems head on. He was not skirting anything,” Martindale said. “Obama very effectively addressed the idea of stereotypes on both sides. By going there and speaking directly to them, he has, I hope, made a beginning for getting a microphone in these societies.”

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