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Most in Muslim world enthused by Obama’s `skillful’ Cairo speech

Cairo (Egypt), June 5 (ANI): A majority of Muslim listeners and experts have praised US President Barack Obama’s reach out to Muslims across the Middle East, especially for his respectful approach, his quotations from the Koran and his forthright references to highly fraught political conflicts.

Obama’s calibrated remarks that called for forgetting the past, understanding an opposing view and listening to uncomfortable truths, resonated deeply with his intended audience.

Muslim listeners said they were struck by how skillfully Obama appropriated religious, cultural and historical references in ways other American presidents had not.

He sprinkled the speech with four quotations from the Koran and used Arabic greetings. He took note of longstanding historical grievances like the stain of colonialism, American support for the Iranian coup of 1953 and the displacement of the Palestinian people. His speech was also embraced for what it did not do: use the word terrorism, broadly seen here as shorthand for an attack on Islam.

“He spoke really like an enlightened leader from the region, more than like a foreigner. It was very unlike the neocolonial and condescending approach of the previous administration,” said Mustafa Hamarneh, the former director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan.

Mohammad Abu Rumman, a research editor at Al Ghad, a daily newspaper in Amman, Jordan, said: “The speech is positive and allows us to move from the religious-civilization title of the struggle to a political-realistic title.”

However, Aryeh Eldad, a parliamentarian from the rightist National Union Party in Israel, said Obama was wrong to compare Arab refugee suffering to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust

Ahmed Youssef, the deputy foreign minister in the Hamas government in Gaza, said, “He points to the right of Israel to exist, but what about the refugees and their right of return?”

When a man at a restaurant in Mosul tried to change the channel to the speech, diners shouted at him, “What a stupid speech!”

In the Shorooq restaurant in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, a small crowed heckled Obama as he spoke about Israel.

“The most important thing is to accomplish things, not just say them,” said Alaa Sahib Abdullah, a 30-year-old lawyer.

In Iran, some praised the explicit reference to the 1953 coup that topped a popular Iranian prime minister.

Many listeners generally agreed with Obama’s comments about violence and extremism, some said they disliked his characterization of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which they described as bloody catastrophes.
“What is astonishing is that he condemned violence, but he didn’t say a word about what the United States did in Iraq,” said Khaled Saghieh, the executive editor of Al Akhbar, a Lebanese daily newspaper that leans toward Hezbollah.

From the Arab perspective, he did not offer any new proposals or suggest a time line for moving toward a Palestinian state. From the Israeli perspective, he criticized expansion of settlements and forcefully endorsed creation of an independent Palestinian state, which Israel’s current government has refused to endorse.

Politicians and analysts on both sides also highlighted statements they interpreted as shoring up their own causes. (ANI)

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