President Obama is not my favorite speaker. I know, I know, many
people praise his speeches as eloquent, inspirational, and
historic. However, I do not share this popular opinion. I often
find his ideas vague and his supporting material inaccurate or
misleading (whether this done accidently or intentionally, I do not
know). Moreover, I find his manner of delivery overdone in tonal
impact, exaggerating simple words and phrases as though they were
Obama recently gave
a speech at Cairo University (Egypt) which addressed what has
since been dubbed the Muslim World. Thus far into his
presidency, it is probably his most important speech because it
concerns the future of America: our ability to overcome terrorism
and our status among other nations. Therefore, it is essential
that Obama's ideas about national security and sovereignty be
discussed and understood.
Having said that,
let me add that I am not an expert in Middle Eastern history and
politics or in Islamic religion and culture. My approach will be
to analyze and evaluate Obama's speech for clear thinking, and to
uncover his method or style of presentation. I will also attempt
to answer three questions. (1) What distinguishes the Obamian
presidency with regard to international relationships and the war
on terror? (2) What is at the core of the Obamian perspective?
(3) Does Obama's personality affect a rational thought process, and
is any such influence positive or negative for America?
Below is the full
text of Obama's speech. Each paragraph is printed in boldface to
show that it is a direct quotation. My commentary is printed in
regular type. (To print the speech only, go to Text of President Obama's Speech
in Cairo. There are sections of the speech where the audience
applauded, and this is indicated by: (APPLAUSE)
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SPEECH
Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo
and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a
thousand years, al-Azhar has, had stood as a beacon of Islamic
learning. And for over a century, Cairo University has been a
source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony
between tradition and progress.
I'm grateful for your hospitality and the hospitality of the
people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the good will
of the American people and a greeting of peace from Muslim
communities in my country: Assalamu Alaikum.
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and
Muslims around the world, tension rooted in historical forces that
go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam
and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation but
also conflict and religious wars.
More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied
rights and opportunities to many Muslims and a Cold War in which
Muslim majority countries were too often treated as proxies without
regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change
brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the
West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
colonialism, modernity, and globaliztion are open to
historical verification as well as political interpretation. Let's
start with colonialism, a historical reality which is also open to
evaluation or interpretation regarding the consequent harm and/or
benefits (including a comparative evaluation of the differences
between colonial and Islamic control).
Even in the context
of an outreach speech to Muslims, reference to colonialism seems
apologetic from the start. What about past Muslim conquests?
These conquests began in 635 A.D. when Muslims conquered the city
of Damascus. Such conquests continued through the Mogul Empire and
then the Ottoman Empire. The Moguls conquered most of India and
expanded as far as Vienna and Budapest. The Ottoman presence in
southeastern Europe did not completely collapse until World World
Moreover, Obama gave
this speech in Egypt, a land that lost much of its culture and its
language to Islam and Arabic. When we think of Egypt, we think of
ancient Egypt: the Pyramids and temples, the kings and queens,
hieroglyphics and art created on papyrus. How differently might
Egypt have developed over the centuries without the Islamic
influence? This is not to say that Islam was good or bad for the
Egyptians, but only that Islam rather than colonialism seems to
have had the major impact on the current Muslim countries.
Otherwise, Egypt might have become a Coptic Orthodox country, or
have undergone some other cultural transformation from its ancient
Now, what about
modernity and globalization? It is the quest for
modernity--particularly among the youth whom Obama mentions later
in his speech--that has the potential to free certain Muslim
enclaves from isolationism and to ensure human rights for all men,
women, and children. There is nothing especially spiritual or
traditional about remaining stuck in the 13th century. As for
globalization, it would seem that the globalization of terrorism is
more of a problem than the globalization of business, education,
movies, and music. It is globalization, propelled by technology,
that has aided terrorist activity.
If Muslims object to
the decadent aspects of modernity and globalization, then it is
their prerogative and responsibility to reinforce the positive
teachings of Islam in their countries and households. There are
Christians and Jews who also dislike what some Muslims dislike. It
becomes a personal choice to boycott those products, stay away from
those places, turn off those television programs, and take away the
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but
potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and
the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence
against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as
inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries but
also to human rights.
Obama continues to
use the term violent extremists throughout his speech. In
this one instance (in the above paragraph) he connects violent
extremism with Muslims: a small but potent minority of
Muslims. These so-called extremists, however, are terrorists.
Obama already fulfilled his goal of outreach by acknowledging that
the extremists are a minority (i.e., he is not blaming all
Muslims or the religion of Islam). There was no need to soften the
impact of this statement by refusing to use the word
Who or what is a
violent extremist? Is it a thug who breaks a woman's arm in an
attempt to steal her purse? Is it a gang member who commits a
drive-by shooting? Is it a teenager who brutally attacks a
homeless man while others watch and video-tape the incident? The
fact is that terrorist activity extends beyond criminal behavior.
Terrorists want governmental control and religious domination of
the world. If we do not distinguish between a criminal and a
terrorist, then we deny the reality of terrorist activity as acts
of war against entire peoples and with the intention to subjugate
and rule over them.
It is also a fact
that terrorists are fanatic Muslims, and that many Americans do not
have contact with moderate Muslims. After 9/11, in the absence of
moderate-Muslim outrage against terrorism, it was difficult for
some Americans to separate one from the other. Americans know that
Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc., are not committing acts of
terror. It is all originating from the Muslim countries. Even
if Muslim fanatics practice a corrupted form of Islam, this
tendency has nonetheless sprung from the Middle East. Perhaps,
rather than Obama reaching out to Muslims, it would be more
appropriate for moderate Muslims to reach out to America and Europe
in compassionate friendship.
All this has bred more fear and more mistrust. So long as our
relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those
who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather
than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve
justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord
I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the
United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual
interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that
America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.
Instead, they overlap and share common principles, principles of
justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human
This sounds a lot
like George W. Bush. These thoughts have been expressed before.
Will the Muslim World listen when Obama speaks these words? I hope
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know
there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single
speech can eradicate years of mistrust nor can I answer in the time
that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought
us to this point.
But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say
openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too
often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained
effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to
respect one another, and to seek common ground.
Again, this sounds
a lot like Bush.
As the holy Quran tells us: "Be conscious of God and speak
always the truth."
That is what I will try to do today, to speak the truth as best
I can. Humbled by the task before us and firm in my belief that the
interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the
forces that drive us apart.
Now, part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm
a Christian. But my father came from a Kenyan family that includes
generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in
Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and
at the fall of dusk.
While admitting that
he is a Christian, Obama talks more about his contact with Muslims.
Since he is trying to reach out to Muslims, perhaps this is
appropriate. However, I wish Obama would, at some point in his
presidency, elaborate on his Christian beliefs. The relationship
between Obama and Rev. Wright has never been satisfactorily
investigated or explained. When Obama says he is a Christian, we
do not know if he means that he believes in Black Liberation
Theology, or if he is a Baptist, or exactly how he feels he is
putting his Christian beliefs into practice.
Will the Muslim
World be able to relate to Obama's self-disclosure? Can his
personal experiences of Islam help to create positive political
alliances? Again, I hope so.
As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found
dignity and peace in their Muslim faith. As a student of history,
I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam at places
like al-Azhar that carried the light of learning through so many
centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and
Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities...
It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order
of algebra, our magnetic compass and tools of navigation, our
mastery of pens and printing, our understanding of how disease
spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us
majestic arches and soaring spires, timeless poetry and cherished
music, elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.
And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and
deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial
soaring spires of Islamic architecture, let us remember the former
Byzantine Cathedral of Hagia Sofia, located in today's Turkey.
Hagia Sofia was a place of Christian worship until it was
overtaken by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire when the city of
Constantinople was caputured in 1453. Muslims then then built the
soaring spires on the perimeter of the Cathedral, turning it into
a mosque (it is currently a museum). Now, Obama has advocated for
Turkey to be admitted to the European Union. Perhaps as a gesture
of outreach and reconciliation, the Turks could return Hagia Sofia
to the Greek Orthodox and then the Muslim World could pay for its
restoration to a functioning church.
In the attempt to
create new beginnings and to protect mutual interests, moderate
Muslims could demonstrate their sincerity by collectively giving
back Hagia Sofia to Christianity. This would be both a real and
a symbolic indication of cooperation and peace. If America is
going to continue to give military and financial aid to the
countries from which terrorists operate, then the Muslim World
could demonstrate appreciation and respect toward the Christian
World for this protection.
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's
story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In
signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second president, John
"The United States has in itself no character of enmity
against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims."
And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the
United States. They have fought in our wars. They have served in
our government. They have stood for civil rights. They have started
businesses. They have taught at our universities. They've excelled
in our sports arenas. They've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest
building and lit the Olympic torch. And when the first Muslim
American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to
defend our Constitution using the same holy Quran that one of our
founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his personal
Obama validates the
positive contributions of Muslims, and affirms America's respect
for freedom of religion. This sounds a lot like Bush.
Should Obama have
mentioned the murder of Pvt. William A. Long? Pvt. Long, aged 23,
was killed at a military recruiting station by an American convert
to Islam, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, on June 2, 2009. Muhammad
also wounded Pvt. Quintan Ezeagwula, aged 18, in the incident.
Muhammad stated that he committed these acts because of American
military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The murder of Pvt.
Long was a terrorist act committed on American soil. Although
other countries have experienced this type of terrorist act more
frequently and more severely than America, it should be a matter of
utmost concern to the whole world if America starts getting
attacked from within. America is the greatest stronghold against
terrorism. If terrorists can diminish American power and
resources, then other countries will find themselves in even
greater danger. Americans cannot protect others if we become
necessarily preoccupied with our own survival on a day-to-day
Obama could have
used Pvt. Long's murder as a rallying point for a new beginning
between Americans and Muslims. He could have motivated everyone to
prevent the senseless loss of innocent lives, in America and in
Muslim countries. Remember the 2008 presidential campaigns?
Remember Senator Hillary Clinton saying that Obama was not
qualified to be Commander in Chief,* not ready to take that 3:00
a.m. phone call? Pvt. Long was Obama's 3:00 a.m. call, and Obama
failed to awake from his slumber.
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the
region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my
conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be
based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part
of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight
against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of
America. Just as...
Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not
the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States
has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has
ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire.
stereotype of America is largely perpetuated by American hardcore
liberals, most of whom voted for Obama.
We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal. And
we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to
those words, within our borders and around the world.
We are shaped by every culture. Drawn from every end of the
Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept, E pluribus unum: Out of
Even though Obama
showed no insight into the anti-Americanism of some of his own
followers, his above three paragraphs are among the best in the
speech. Obama achieved a certain level of truthfulness and
fairness. And, it was good to hear him praise America.
Now much has been made of the fact that an African-American with
the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected president.
Since this remark
follows Obama's praise of America, I will assume he referred to his
presidency as a positive aspect of American history--as a
consequence of the abolition of slavery and the success of the
Civil Rights era. However, Obama was not elected as Barack Hussein
Obama. The use of his middle name was frowned upon during the
campaign. It was politically incorrect. He was elected as Barack
Obama. It was only after his inauguration that Obama began
referring to himself by his full name. Regarding the abolition of
slavery in America, let us hope that the Muslims will also free the
slaves currently held in Muslim countries.
But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity
for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its
promise exists for all who come to our shores. And that includes
nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the
way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the
Why are American
Muslims doing better than other Americans? It would appear that
American Muslims are benefitting from democracy and capitalism,
as well as from their ability to maintain their religious and
cultural traditions despite (or because of) modernity and
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to
practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every
state in our union and over 1,200 mosques within our borders.
That's why the United States government has gone to court to
protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to
punish those who would deny it.
freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice
one's religion. Let us hold Obama accountable to that
mentions the right of women and girls to wear a head-covering, he
does not say anything about their right not to wear it. The real
issue is whether or not women and girls have a right to choose.
This was one of the worst statements in Obama's speech.
So let there be no doubt...
... let there be no doubt, Islam is a part of America. And I
believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of
race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common
aspirations: to live in peace and security, to get an education and
to work with dignity, to love our families, our communities, and
our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all
Again, it is good
to hear Obama praise America. ...America holds within
her... Indeed, most people aspire to basic human needs:
education, work, love, cooperation. However, not all
humanity wants or is capable of love and cooperation. The
Obamian perspective does not seem to account for the existence of
evil, or how some people become evil, or how all humanity is
to be protected from evil. If terrorists are violent extremists,
and if all humanity has common aspirations, then the associated
problems can be reduced in severity and the solutions can be
simplified with regard to effort. We can all go back to a pre-9/11
world, back to a 1960-ish dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning
of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These
needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead. And if
we understand that the challenges we face are shared and our
failure to meet them will hurt us all.
Who are our
people? Every now and then, Obama says something that sounds
lofty of the surface, but is actually vague and questionable.
There are inconsistencies and contradictions in Obama's style of
presentation, a juxtaposition of facts, examples, re-labeling of
terms, and vague assertions that beg for precise definition. Is
our people the world, or the Muslims to whom Obama is
speaking, or the Americans whom Obama serves as President? Is
our people a new union of some sort? Is it in reference to
the family of man?
What does it mean
to act boldly? Does it mean to go to war? Does it mean to
gather non-extremist peoples into a collective unit? Does it mean
that the Muslim World is not carrying its share of the burden in
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial
system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When
a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one
nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises
for all nations.
It is partly true
that any malfunction in one system affects all systems, or has some
potential to affect all systems. However, the financial disaster
in America affected worldwide systems because the American dollar
is the strongest. If Estonia had a total financial breakdown, this
would not affect the prosperity or stability of all the world's
systems. Financial problems cannot be compared to disease. The
flu spreads through germs. Yes, it is serious and has the
potential to infect and kill millions. But, diseases have spread
among people throughout history, even before globalization.
Diseases will continue to spread and we will continue to develop
medicines. Finance and disease cannot be compared to nuclear
weapons. Nuclear weapons are dangerous in the hands of maniacal
leaders, but a means of ultimate self-defense in the hands of
The above three
comparisons are a very awkward section of Obama's speech. I feel
like he is trying to make a point about sharing responsibility,
mutual self-protection, and the brotherhood of man, but it
just does not mesh together. On the contrary, it sounds like the
politics of fear, something of which Obama often accused
Bush. I just get this queasy feeling that collectivity (as opposed
to cooperation) is viewed as more important than independent and
sovereign power and prosperity.
When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains,
people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and
Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective
Obama continues in
this vague and awkward presentation of his material. I am not sure
that the world has a collective conscience. Yes, we have political
and neighborly relationships with one another. Yes, we should help
others wherever there is need--so long as we have the resources to
do so. Yes, America has failed miserably at times to do the right
thing. But, America must somehow resolve these failures
internally, as a matter of national identity and efficacy.
countries must do the same according to their own identities and
within the dimensions of their national aspirations. It is not
necessarily a worldwide collective process (again, I am
contrasting collectivity with cooperation), but rather a highly
personal and national definition of what it means to be American
(or Egyptian, or Brazilian, or German, etc.).
That is what it means to share this world in the 21st Century.
That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
This is a difficult responsibility to embrace, for human history
has often been a record of nations and tribes, and, yes, religions
subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests.
When Obama says that
religions have often subjugated one another, is he referring to
Islam? Christianity? Israel? Palestine? Jim Jones? All of the
above? When Muslims listen to this, do they relate it to
Christians? And do Christians relate it to Muslims?
Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given
our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or
group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we
think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems
must be dealt with through partnership, our progress must be
Perhaps we have
reached some of the distinguishing features of the Obamain
presidency: a new age, a world order, collectivity, and a politics
of fear and urgency. We certainly do not want fanatic Islamic
states to be elevated above democracies but, let's face it, some
countries are better than others. Some countries have more
freedom, opportunities, and cleaner air! Some countries are
naturally elevated above others, not because of arrogance, tyranny,
or imperialism, but because of their constitutions and values. No
country should be obligated to share with another country that
abuses human rights or squanders resources. There must be limits
and standards, the application of which tends to elevate some
countries above others.
As Americans, we
believe that all people are created equally, that all have rights.
But, not all people behave equally well. When the rights of others
are violated, whether by individuals or nations, then those
behaviors are not to be tolerated. These are not merely sources
of tension as Obama states in the next paragraph, but grievous
violations against human rights and human potential. A source
of tension is similar to a violent extremist: it is a
sort of non-offensive softening of the real issues, the roots or
causes of those issues, the necessary solutions, and the effort
required to implement those solutions.
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension.
Indeed, it suggests the opposite. We must face these tensions
squarely. And so, in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as
plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must
finally confront together.
It is too late for
Obama to turn back. He has already emphasized his concerns and
his perspective in defining those concerns, as well as his general
method for coping or for solving problems: the re-labeling of
descriptive terms (not for the development of a working lexicon,
but in compliance with political correctness and in denial of the
ideological aspect of terrorism), and collectivity as the preferred
method of coping with extremism and of relating to one another. It
could be suspected that the sources of tension are those
which upset the collective order, an order which Obama seems to be
attempting to create.
Allow me to pause
and summarize Obama's speech up to this point. It is a speech of
outreach to Muslims. In the attempt to re-engage that part of
the world under post-Iraq War conditions, however, there also seems
to be an emphasis on an artificial or exaggerated division between
Muslims and the rest of the world (particularly Christians and
Jews). Even though Obama simultaneously emphasizes commonalities,
his speech reminds me of former Senator John Edwards' two
Americas theme. A problem, such as poverty, is described in
terms of extreme contrasts rather than in terms of an evaluation of
all the complicated and real dynamics.
which can stir positive self-interest and collective survival in a
dangerous world, seem to stretch beyond cooperative relationships
for the preservation of self and world. It could be suspected that
the commonalities are being used for the purpose of collectivity
within itself. That is to say, a new world order based on the
political correctness du jour.
At times, Obama
praises America and offers examples of democracy from American
history. This is appropriate, but also confusing. Is Obama really
praising America? I hope so. Is he attempting to use American
history, selecting certain quotations, to justify the building of
a new world order and to prep everyone to accept his rightful
leadership in this new world? Or, is Obama conflicted within
himself? It could be imagined that Obama, being biracial and
having grown up in various cultures, is seeking cohesion within
himself by attempting to bring the world together in wholeness and
harmony. The world might then affirm and reflect his own sense of
Perhaps this is why
Obama uses self-disclosure. It could be imagined that he
identifies with different races and cultures on a genuine level:
that he has experienced people as equal and having common
aspirations, from his childhood in Indonesia to his days as a
community organizer in Chicago. Perhaps he is trying to balance
his multicultural background and attachments with an appreciation
of and a loyalty to America. The result (in this imaginative
schema) is the development of a collective unit in which everyone
shares and no one is elevated above the other in terms of personal
psychological and political dynamics of Obama's speech, it should
not be this difficult to figure out what he is really saying. His
opinions and ideas should be clearly stated, and he should provide
precise definitions of his words and terms. Nothing should be
left open to personal interpretation, imagination, or guesswork.
Let's move on to the
remainder of Obama's speech. In the paragraphs that follow, Obama
talks about seven areas of concern: (1) violent extremism, (2)
Israel and Palestine, (3) nuclear weapons, (4) democracy, (5)
religious freedom, (6) women's rights, and (7) economic
development. Perhaps we will begin to understand what it means for
Obama to act boldly.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in
all its forms. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and
never will be at war with Islam.
We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who
pose a grave threat to our security because we reject the same
thing that people of all faiths reject, the killing of innocent
men, women and children. And it is my first duty as president to
protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals and
our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States
pursued al-Qaida and the Taliban with broad international support.
We did not go by choice. We went because of necessity. I'm aware
that there's still some who would question or even justify the
offense of 9/11. But let us be clear. Al-Qaida killed nearly 3,000
people on that day.
The victims were innocent men, women and children from America
and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And
yet al-Qaida chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed
credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to
kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and
are trying to expand their reach.
These are not opinions to be debated. These are facts to be
dealt with. Make no mistake, we do not want to keep our troops in
Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there.
It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is
costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict.
We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we
could be confident that there were not violent extremists in
Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, determined to kill as many Americans
as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries.
And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not
weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They
have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different
faiths but, more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their
actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the
progress of nations, and with Islam.
The above six
paragraphs are among the best in the speech. Obama placed
responsibility for 9/11 on al-Qaida (not on the Bush administration
as some radicals probably would have wanted him to do), affirmed
the innocence of those who were killed on that day, and clearly
stated that such attacks should not be tolerated. He also stated
that al-Qaida has killed Muslims. Even so, Obama still did not
refer to al-Qaida as a terrorist organization or to its
The holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as--it
is as it if has killed all mankind.
And the holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if
he has saved all mankind.
The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger
than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem
in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of
This sounds a lot
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going solve
the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to
invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner
with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and
businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been
That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help
Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people
The rebuilding of
Iraq and Afghanistan already began under Bush. The courageous
and dedicated efforts of America's military and other individuals
and organizations received very little attention in the mainstream
news media. And, Obama himself seems reluctant to validate these
past accomplishments and relationships.
Now, let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan,
Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my
country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi
people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam
Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America
of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to
resolve our problems whenever possible.
Obama skims over,
perhaps with appropriate diplomacy, the issues of preemptive war,
the gathering of intelligence, weapons of mass destruction, and
whether or not Bush lied. At this point, and in this speech,
perhaps Obama was wise to focus on a post-Iraq vision of the
Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said:
"I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us
that the less we use our power, the greater it will be."
Today America has a dual responsibility to help Iraq forge a
better future and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to
the Iraqi people...
I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no basis
and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is
its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat
brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement
with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat
troops from Iraqi cities by July and to remove all of our troops
from Iraq by 2012.
We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its
economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner
and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by
extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. 9/11 was
an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it
provoked was understandable. But in some cases, it led us to act
contrary to our traditions and our ideals.
We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have
unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States.
And I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early
Perhaps the above
two paragraphs have introduced us to the essence of the Obamian
perspective: moral righteousness and authoritarianism. Obama was
against the Iraq War and is against torture (or interrogation
techniques which some others would not define as torture) as a
matter of principle. Moreover, beneath the surface message, Obama
seems to be apologizing to Muslims for the Iraq War, while
defending Americans as having been understandably afraid and angry.
This is one of the most convoluted messages in his speech. He is
against the Iraq War, but rationalizes or diminishes any
disagreement with his view. He apologizes, but states that the
actions for which he is apologizing are not characteristic of
Americans--that some Americans over-reacted.
admitted that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein. Yet, it
is as though he could not resist, perhaps driven by his own sense
of moral certitude, to mention the issues of torture and
Guantanamo Bay. It is as though he could not give any credit to
George W. Bush or to the successes and contributions of the United
States military. It is al-Qaida that has committed atrocities--not
as aberration but as policy. Obama's focus should have been
exclusively on al-Qaida and the terror they have inflicted on the
Obama seems to be
essentially saying that the Iraq War was a mistake, and that it
was based on human emotional reaction. This is an insult to
American government, military, and citizens. Obama has cast an
entire era as having been mentally incapacitated and, therefore,
that is why they acted contrary to American traditions and ideals.
People had different levels of emotional reaction to 9/11, and
people recovered from the trauma in different ways. Going to war
was not a symptom of mass mental illness or a therapeutic exercise
to alleviate 9/11 trauma.
There seems to be a
twist of logic in Obama's presentation. Undoubtedly, Obama has
heard or read about discussions on the narcissism in our culture
and politics. Some people think Obama is a narcissist. Some
people think his followers idolize him. As for 9/11 trauma, the
ones who seem unable to overcome their trauma are the ones who
accuse Bush of having orchestrated the 9/11 attack, and the ones
who justify terrorism and blame America. It is within current
liberal politics that certain paychological dynamics seem to be at
work (denial, projection, blame, chronic anger). The twist is
that Obama seems to have foisted the concept of mental illness onto
to the past eight years of anti-terror efforts, thereby defocusing
from the analyses of himself and his followers. And, he did this
in front of the whole world. He did this while addressing an
important audience about the crucial topic of America's
relationship with Muslims.
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of
nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with
Muslim communities, which are also threatened. The sooner the
extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the
sooner we will all be safer.
So America will
defend itself,... Let us hold Obama accountable to that
statement. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome
in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer. This
was probably the most courageous remark made by Obama. This is the
key to overcoming terrorism: Muslims must rid their own countries
of terrorist outposts. Otherwise, working from the outside, we
must rely on diplomacy, sanctions, surveillance, intelligence,
partnerships, and self-defense. And, America could again be faced
with discussions of the legitimacy and necessity of preemptive war.
Now, the second major source of tension that we need to discuss
is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America's strong bonds with Israel are well-known. This bond is
unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the
recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in
a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world the Jewish people were persecuted for
centuries. And anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an
unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow I will visit Buchenwald, which
was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured,
shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich.
Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish
population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless. It is
ignorant, and it is hateful.
Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile
stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in
the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while
preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
In the above four
paragraphs, Obama affirms a positive relationship with Israel,
affirms the historical reality of the Holocaust, and condemns
anti-Semitism. This could be interpreted as a bold admonishment
toward Iran's president. But, wait, let us proceed cautiously to
the next paragraph.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian
people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a
homeland. For more than 60 years, they've endured the pain of
This is one of the
worst parts of Obama's speech. There is no comparison between
the Holocaust and the dislocation of people. The Holocaust
involved the persecution and killing of millions of innocent
people, based on their religion and culture. While the dislocation
of people is a severe problem (just to provide an example of
another kind of dislocation, we have people in America who were and
continue to be dislocated by Hurricane Katrina), it does not fall
into the same category as the decimation of people.
Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and
neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have
never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large
and small, that come with occupation.
So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian
people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the
legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a
state of their own.
For decades, then, there has been a stalemate. Two peoples with
legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes
compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers.
For Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by
Israel's founding and for Israelis to point to the constant
hostility and attacks throughout its history, from within its
borders as well as beyond.
But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other,
then we will be blind to the truth. The only resolution is for the
aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where
Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
What is this truth
to which we are blinded? Are truth and a resolution the same
thing? Can it not be that one side is right and the other wrong?
Does such a resolution involve compromise? Can the truth be
compromised? Is the truth the same as cooperation? Is Obama
attempting to be fair? Or neutral? Is neutrality possible? What
is in America's best interest? Why is it so difficult to figure
out what Obama is really saying?
That is in Israel's interests, Palestine's interests, America's
interests and the world's interests. And that's why I intend to
personally pursue this outcome with all of the patience and
dedication that the task requires.
The obligations--the obligations that the parties have agreed
to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for
them and all of us to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence
and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black
people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the
humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full
and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon
the ideals at the center of America's founding.
Again, Obama refers
to slavery in America. What about the slavery that exists in
present-day Muslim countries? Where is the so-called collective
This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South
Asia, to Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple
truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor
power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women
on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed, that's how it
Although no one
would argue with the surface content of this statement, it must be
pointed out that Obama also seemed to use this statement to
illustrate moral authority. Moral authority, perhaps even
superiority, seems to be very important to Obama. Is Obama
defending children and old women, or asserting his self-image of
moral righteousness to the world? This is not an attempt to
psychoanalyze Obama, but rather it is a close analysis of words and
sentences and Obama's peculiar juxtaposition of different thoughts.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can
build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to
govern with institutions that serve the needs of its people.
Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also
have to recognize they have responsibilities, to play a role in
fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian
people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past
agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as
Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's.
The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued
This construction violates previous agreements and undermines
efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that
Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as
it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian
crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security, neither does the
continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank.
Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a
critical part of a road to peace. And Israel must take concrete
steps to enable such progress.
And, finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace
Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their
responsibility. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used
to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.
Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian
people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to
recognize Israel's legitimacy and to choose progress over a
self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and
we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and
Palestinians and Arabs.
We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize
that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the
need for a Palestinian state.
It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too
many tears have been shed, too much blood has been shed.
All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the
mothers of Israelis and Palestinians could, can see their children
grow up without fear, when the holy land of the three great faiths
is the place of peace that God intended it to be, when Jerusalem is
a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims and a
place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully
together as in the story of Isra--as in the story of Isra, when
Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed--peace be upon them--joined in
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights
and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons. This issue has
been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic
Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself, in part,
by its opposition to my country. And there is, in fact, a
tumultuous history between us.
Is Obama using the
defense mechanism of projection? When he says that Iran has
defined itself in opposition to the United States, could it not
also be suspected that Obama has defined himself in opposition to
Bush? Or in rivalry with Bush? It seems that Obama continually
refers to past Bush policies in his speeches and comments. In
fact, some critics of Obama feel that he is still campaigning
against the Bush administration. Whether or not Obama intends it,
constant reference to Bush keeps the old hatred alive among
hardcore liberals. If Obama is going to reach out to Muslims, let
him also reach out to Americans by letting go of his ongoing
campaign-style criticisms of Bush. Let Obama define himself and
his policies without defocusing onto a convenient scapegoat.
In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role
in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.
Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of
hostage taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This
history is well known.
Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to
Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move
forward. The question now is not what Iran is against but, rather,
what future it wants to build.
What if the two go
together? If the president of Iran defines himself in opposition
to America, what if such opposition is the stuff on which the
Iranian president wants to build a future?
It was only shortly
after Obama gave his speech that Iran had a presidential election.
It was quickly reported that the current president, Ahmadinejad,
was re-elected with an overwhelming majority of votes. Among the
citizens of Iran, accusations of election fraud were directed
toward the current regime. There were protests in the
streets--bold actions. Many of the protesters were from Iran's
younger generation. It was reported that one protester asked for
Obama to intervene and help them (if one felt this way, there were
certainly others). The European Union advocated for an
investigation of the vote outcome. Meanwhile, Afghanistan and
Turkey sent messages of congratulations to Ahmadinejad.
remained silent on this situation for nearly three days. When he
finally spoke, after the European leaders had already expressed
their concerns, he affirmed that Iran was a sovereign nation and
had the right to resolve their own problems. He stated, however,
that he was "deeply troubled" by the violence which had
erupted. As I type this paragraph on Monday evening, Iran has
just asked foreign reporters to leave the country. In other words,
censorship is being put into effect. **
Should Obama have
acted boldly, especially after having given an outreach speech to
the Muslim World? Will Obama's personal sense of fairness,
neutrality, and moral righteousness prove not to be politically
helpful? Should Obama have appealed to the so-called collective
conscience of the world, or have formed an American partnership
with the European Union on this situation? Will Ahmadinejad
respect or trust Obama for not challenging his re-election? Will
this enable Obama to have a positive influence on Ahmadinejad, on
behalf of the Iranian people as well as for the purpose of world
Obama did nothing,
and said very little. Although the situation is delicate, Obama
could have given a more definitive statement. Obama possibly
missed an opportunity to bring freedom to a generation of Iranians
who appear to be pro-American. And, the whole world is watching.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but
we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be
many issues to discussion between our two countries, and we are
willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of
But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear
weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about
It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East
that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous
Now, I understand those who protest that some countries have
weapons that others do not. No single nations should pick and
choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I
strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which
no nations hold nuclear weapons.
Can anyone really
imagine a world in which America does not have nuclear weapons?
Well, perhaps the mind of a terrorist would savor the thought.
America, a responsible democracy, should not set protective limits
on countries which are a threat to the world? Is that what Obama
is saying? All countries should agree on which countries are
permitted to have nuclear weapons? Is that what Obama is saying?
But, what is Obama's solution to the nuclear arms race? He will
seek a world in which nobody has nuclear weapons.
Who will be the
first to let go of their nuclear weapons? America? North Korea?
Or, will all countries agree to disassemble all their nuclear
weapons at the same time? What will happen to the knowledge to
build nuclear weapons? Will those papers and books also be
eliminated? Will all computers be scanned for nuclear weapon
instruction programs? And nobody is going to stash away nuclear
weapon information in a secret hiding place?!
It could now be
suspected that Obama's sense of fairness and moral righteousness
has the potential to extend into utopian fantasy. Utopias have
never succeeded--and America has a history of attempts at utopian
societies. The only way nuclear disarmament could have any
inkling of a chance for success is if there were a one-world
government with a democratically elected, cult-like leader. Such
a cult leader would be served by devotees throughout the world who
would enforce the ban against nuclear weapons.
And any nation, including Iran, should have the right to access
peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities
under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at
the core of the treaty. And it must be kept for all who fully abide
by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share
in this goal.
Why is America not
utilizing such nuclear power?
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.
I know there has been controversy about the promotion of
democracy in recent years. And much of this controversy is
connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear. No system of
government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that
reflect the will of the people.
This is another
area in which Obama hints at criticisms of Bush. Of course,
democracy cannot be imposed on any nation. An imposed democracy
would not be democracy. Do the people of Iran want democracy?
Apparently so. Does Ahmadinejad want democracy? It appears he
wants it, but only if it suits his political ambitions. So, if the
people want democracy but their leader wants absolute power, how
do you respect the will of the people without imposing democracy
on the nation's power structure?
Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way,
grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not
presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not
presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.
Again, of course,
America is not going to pick the outcome of another country's
peaceful election. But what if the election was not peaceful?
What if the election process was corrupted? What if the election
results were announced before there was even enough time to count
all the votes? What if the election outcome does not reflect the
will of the people? How should the America react? America cannot
and should not militarily intervene in every situation, but there
are other ways to show support.
But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for
certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in
how you are governed, confidence in the rule of law and the equal
administration of justice, government that is transparent and
doesn't steal from the people, the freedom to live as you choose.
These are not just American ideas. They are human rights. And that
is why we will support them everywhere.
This sounds a lot
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this
much is clear. Governments that protect these rights are ultimately
more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never
succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all
peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even
if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful
governments, provided they govern with respect for all their
mentions America's experience with slavery and the subjugation of
women (in a following paragraph), he never mentions the
suppression of ideas in America. Perhaps Obama should apologize
to Americans for the revisionist history textbooks in our
children's schools, for the universities that teach from a hardcore
liberal viewpoint, and for the crude stereotyping of America by
hardcore liberals. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in
making them go away. Let us hold Obama accountable to that
This last point is important because there are some who advocate
for democracy only when they're out of power. Once in power, they
are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.
So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and
by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power.
You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion. You
must respect the rights of minorities and participate with a spirit
of tolerance and compromise. You must place the interests of your
people and the legitimate workings of the political process above
Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true
The people of Iran
already know this.
(AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOUTS)
The fifth issue that we must address together is religious
freedom. Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the
history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it
firsthand as a child in Indonesia where devout Christians
worshipped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country.
That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should
be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of
the mind and the heart and the soul.
Let us hold Obama
accountable to that statement. That statement must also include
Christians in America.
This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive. But it's
being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims,
there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the
rejection of somebody else's faith.
The richness of religious diversity must be upheld, whether it
is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.
And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among
Muslims as well as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to
tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live
together. We must always examine the ways in which people protect
it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving
have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious
The problem with
so-called charitable giving is when the monies are channeled into
That's why I'm committed to work with American Muslims to ensure
that they can fulfill zakat. Likewise, it is important for Western
countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing
religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes
a Muslim woman should wear.
What, exactly, is
Obama referring to? Who in America is dictating how a Muslim
woman should dress? I have heard about instances within the
motor vehicle department in which Muslim women were asked to
remove their head covering for the purpose of an I.D. photo. I
think this was especially troublesome among women who wore not
only the head covering but a face covering as well. In other
words, only their eyes showed. This was a long time ago, I do not
know how it was resolved, and I have not heard of any more such
To the best of my
knowledge, Muslim women and girls are not impeded from wearing a
head covering in America. Women wear them in public, and girls
wear them in public schools. Perhaps Obama is referring to
isolated incidents which were not widely reported and which have
already been resolved. Such dictating certainly does not
seem to be a national problem.
The real issue is
the right of Muslim women and girls NOT to wear a head covering or
other forms of Muslim clothing. In some Muslim areas, women are
beaten for not dressing according to that area's particular
standard of religious clothing. If Obama has an unyielding
belief that all people yearn for the freedom to live as they
choose, then let him support a Muslim woman's right to dress as she
chooses: meaning, in a Western style if that is what she wants.
We know there are
young Muslim women who wear jeans under their traditional outfit.
Is this due to the negative influence of modernity and
globalization? Is this a deterioration of tradition and
spirituality? Since Muslim men are permitted to dress in Western
clothing, it cannot be true that Western clothing itself debases
the Islamic faith. There seems to be a double standard which is
probably cultural rather than spiritual.
Some of us might
remember the days when Christian women were not allowed to wear
pants in church. It was considered sloppy, disrespectful, and
almost immoral to wear pants in a house of worship. Men wore
pants. Women wore dresses (and heels and nylon stockings). The
odd thing is that pants keep a woman covered, while a dress or
skirt exposes her legs. It probably was not until the introduction
of the pantsuit that it became acceptable for women to wear pants
in the office, and then eventually in church. The point is this:
Christian women have a choice. They can choose when and where to
wear dresses or pants. And, it would be extremely difficult to
argue that wearing pants has made women less spiritual.
We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the
pretense of liberalism. In fact, faith should bring us together.
And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring
together Christians, Muslims and Jews.
That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's
interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of
Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service
so bridges between peoples lead to action, whether it is combating
malaria in Africa or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue--the sixth issue that I want to address is
I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a
healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the
West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less
equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is
Let us hope that
the women who get an education will not be then have acid thrown in
face if they do not wear a head covering to class. Otherwise,
Obama's use of the word equality is moot. Nevertheless,
education for women and girls should be a right, and I am glad he
included this section in his speech.
And it is no coincidence that countries where women are
well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means
simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to
Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many
aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am
convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society
as our sons.
This is one of the
worst parts of the speech. The status of women in America cannot
possibly be compared to the status of women in fanatic Islamic
areas, or to that of women in any part of the world where they are
trafficked into the sex trade and slavery. Women in America have
the right to get an education, to have a career, to travel
independently, to drive cars, to shake hands with a man. It does
not matter if Obama feels convinced that our daughters can
contribute just as much to society as our sons. This is
everyday reality in America, whether or not Obama is convinced of
Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity,
men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that
women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And
I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional
roles. But it should be their choice.
That is why the United States will partner with any
Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls and
to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that
helps people live their dreams.
Obama advocates for
education and employment for Muslim women, but not for their
rights in their marriages and families.
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory.
The internet and television can bring knowledge and information but
also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home.
Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities but also huge
disruptions and change in communities. In all nations, including
America, this change can bring fear; fear that, because of
modernity, we lose control over our economic choices, our politics,
and most importantly, our identities, those things we most cherish
about our communities, our families, our traditions and our
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need
not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries
like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while
maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing
progress within Muslim majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to
In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been
at the forefront of innovation and education. And this is important
because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes
out of the ground nor can it be sustained while young people are
out of work.
Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of
oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But
all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the
currency of the 21st century. And in too...
And in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment
in these areas. I am emphasizing such investment within my own
country. And while America, in the past, has focused on oil and gas
when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader
On education, we will expand change programs and increase
scholarships like the one that brought my father to America.
At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in
Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students
with internships in America, invest in online learning for teachers
and children around the world and create a new, online network so
a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young
person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new core of business
volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim majority
countries. And I will host a summit on entrepreneurship this year
to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders,
foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and
Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support
technological development in Muslim majority country and to help
transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We
will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle
East and Southeast Asia and appoint new science envoys to
collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create
green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops.
Today, I'm announcing a new global effort with the organization
of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also
expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are
ready to join with citizens and governments, community
organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim
communities around the world to help our people pursue a better
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address,
but we have a responsibility to join together to behalf of the
world that we seek, a world where extremists no longer threaten our
people and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis
and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own and
nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes, a world where
governments serve their citizens and the rights of all God's
children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the
world we seek. But we can only achieve it together. I know there
are many, Muslim and non-Muslim, who question whether we can forge
this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division
and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't
worth the effort, that we are fated to disagree and civilizations
are doomed to clash.
Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There
is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years.
But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move
forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of
every faith in every country. You more than anyone have the ability
to reimagine the world, the remake this world.
The Iranians seem
to be doing that right now, during their brief moment in
time (see the paragraph below), risking their lives to make the
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The
question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us
apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained
effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for
our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame
others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different
about someone than to find the things we share. But we should
choose the right path, not just the easy path. 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.
Let Obama show the
way by his own example.
This truth transcends nations and peoples, a belief that isn't
new, that isn't black or white or brown, that isn't Christian or
Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of
civilization and that still beats in the hearts of billions around
the world. It's a faith in other people. And it's what brought me
Obama closes his
speech with a very confusing statement. He said that there is one
rule at the heart of every religion: do unto others as you would
have them do unto you. Then, he says there is a truth that
transcends races, governments, cultures, and religions: a faith in
other people. He seems to have moved from a sort of interfaith
invitation to unity, to a non-religious definition of truth which
he regards as higher than religion.
It is difficult to
follow his thought pattern. It seems to go like this: (A) the
right path, (B) which is guided by the Golden Rule, (C) which is
transcended by a truth, (D) which is a belief common to all people
since the beginning of civilization, (E) which is a faith in
other people, (F) which is why he went to Cairo to reach out to
If Obama is a
Christian, and if Muslims are really Muslims, and if Jews are
really Jews, then the above pattern cannot be put forth as a
commonality--especially if this pattern is regarded as superior to
the religious beliefs held by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Religion involves belief in a power higher than self, usually
belief in a supreme being. Religion does not involve a faith in
people. Faith in people does not transcend faith in God. By
creating this sort of humanitarian but false commonality, Obama has
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have
the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been
written. 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."
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."
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that
is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very
(END OF SPEECH)
As I finish typing
this essay on Tuesday evening, seven people have died in the
protests in Iran. It is reported that tens of thousands of people
are marching in the streets. There are unofficial reports that
students were massacred in Tehran. The reform candidate, Mousavi,
is calling for a new election. President Obama's latest response
is that he does not want to meddle in the Iranians' affairs.
Obama's lengthy speech in detail, the type of speech that many
people find inspirational, I am struck by Obama's lack of energy
on the Iranian situation--his lack of ability to create the new
beginnings about which he spoke. I understand the need for
caution. We do not want to make matters worse and to continue
hearing Ahmadinejad's supporters shout "Death to
America" over the next several years. Nevertheless, Obama
could have expressed greater acknowledgment, evaluation, and
support of the people.
After all is said
and done, or not said and not done, President Obama is not acting
like the world leader he said he would be.
[*NOTE: Some T.V.
news commentators referred to Vice President Joe Biden and
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton having campaigned against Obama
in the 2008 presidential race, specifically to their evaluations
that Obama was not prepared to be Commander in Chief. This
paragraph is an adaptation of those comments.]
information on the Iran election situation was heard on T.V. news
programs: FOX, CNN, and MSNBC.] (Written 06/17/09: bibliography available.)
Until we meet