President Obama will deliver an unprecedented speech in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, June 4, 09, addressed to the Arab and Muslim world. Unfortunately the actual speech will happen after TMO goes to press, but here are some thoughts on what are the important issues facing the Muslim world that we hope he will address.
As I am writing this, President Obama is meeting with King Abdullah, discussing Middle East policy generally and the perception Muslims have of the United States and of our new president, and likely in both directions the two leaders are exchanging advice as to how to go forward.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University June 4, 2009. Obama sought a "new beginning" between the United States and the Muslim world on Thursday but offered no new initiative to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an omission likely to disappoint many.
Muslims around the world hope for much from Obama. Muslims are also paying close attention to what he will say in Cairo, and perhaps more importantly to where he is putting the facts on the ground–and a great deal of hopefulness stems from the perceived tensions between Israel and the US, especially on the issue of settlements–which he apparently wants to halt, much to the consternation of the far-right Israelis including Netanyahu, who are having trouble stomaching the idea of an American president who is anything other than a rubber stamp for Israeli foreign policy.
An issue that he can bring to the table is the ridiculous perception among some Americans that Islam and fascism are in any way connected–a perception that was nurtured by the previous administration.
Also, we would hope that he will work towards the former 2002 Arab peace plan: in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967, the Arab countries would recognize Israel and normalize relations with it. This proposal may even speed up overtures to Israel by the Arab countries.
We hope Obama will work towards an inclusive perception of the world community. You canâ€™t expect to be a worldâ€™s leader by excluding the worldâ€™s 1.5 billion Muslims–more than 20% of the world. There are 48 countries with a Muslim population of over 50% out of the total 195 countries in the world (i.e. 24.61%).
We also hope he will address two critical issues: increasing disenchantment of Muslim youths because of past tilted policies, and tyrannical regimes: we hope he will address the heads of countries with Muslim majorities to move them towards nurturing their own people.
If he instills confidence and vision in the younger generation it will go a long way. By fostering in them â€œby working togetherâ€ we will achieve a better world that will help humanity at large.
And he should remind the heads of these nations of their responsibilities to weed out extremists who advocate hatred and violence. Address the human rights issues in their countries, encourage democratic processes and espouse associated values.
Many will question him for speaking from Cairo where Mubarak has been president since 1981. The country is still ruled under a â€œstate of emergency!â€ During the last election in 2005 no international observers were allowed to observe.
We hope this doesnâ€™t dampen his message intended for the Arabs and the Muslim world; if his message is sincere, courageous, concrete and unambiguous, he may find Muslims extremely receptive and warm–his overtures of goodwill can lead towards an international flowering of unimaginable cooperation.