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Obama Bonaparte’s Campaign | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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“Is he Obama Bonaparte or Obama the awaited?”

These two opposite descriptions summarize Arab reaction to President Obama’s Cairo speech. On the one hand, some analysts like our colleague Fahmi Huwaydi, saw in Obama’s speech the “awaited Obama” who will fill the world with justice and fairness, which will replace the widespread injustice and oppression. Others saw him as ill-intentioned, witty, and cunning and a reminder of the famous French leader Napoleon Bonaparte, who visited Cairo as a conqueror, whereas Obama visited as a speaker.

It has been said that Napoleon Bonaparte led a military campaign in the outskirts of Cairo, and so did Obama when he launched a cultural campaign through its streets. Bonaparte entered Cairo holding the Koran, dressed like an Arab, admiring their food, and promising Muslims to lead their march [for pilgrimage] to the holy places in Mecca. It has been said that Obama did the same. He entered Cairo through his former Islamic religion, African complexion, and the religious connotation of his middle name — Hussein. He even transformed himself during his deceptive campaign into a “mullah,” as he recited so many verses of the Holy Koran.

Objectivity and realism are absent in many of the analytical writings. Realists, who do not look at people from the perspective of “saint or Satan,” realize that the welfare and prosperity of the Islamic world are naturally not among Obama’s priorities and that Obama — the beautician — is seriously trying to rectify the damage caused by the “Bush era.” The political, economic, and military interests of the United States suffered badly under President Bush, and some analysts have described his era as the beginning of the decline of US hegemony and world leadership. Consequently, when it comes to a new US President, with a different color and a reconciliatory policy based on partnership, this should be regarded as no more than an emergency plan to improve the image of the United States in the eyes of the Islamic world.

This process needs practical steps to be taken whereby the United States persuades the Islamic people and their governments that it was serious in trying to avoid the mistakes of the previous US Administrations. Otherwise, Obama will not be in a better position than his predecessors.

Obama’s speech contained many positive points, the most prominent among them was his desire to establish relations with the Islamic world based on partnership, his unprecedented open opposition to the building of Israeli settlements, his implied recognition of the popularity of Hamas and more importantly, not describing it as a terrorist organization, and his clear desire to create a historic rapprochement between the United States and the Arab and Islamic worlds.

At the same time, the contradictions in his speech should not be overlooked. Because even though he called for withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan and Pakistan, he doubled their numbers there and put pressure on his Pakistani allies to fight the Taliban, which resulted in killing thousands of civilians and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

The first thing that Obama proved through his speech in Cairo was that he does not have an inferiority complex because of his Islamic and African backgrounds. Many have thought that Obama, after entering the White House, will try to prove his innocence and rid himself of the residue of that background and will be oversensitive in his behavior to the extent that his position will appear indistinguishable from that of the fanatic Christians or the white extremists.

Not only he has proved that this was a mere delusion, he further increased his endearment of himself to Islam and Muslims, in a way that none of his predecessors has done since the days of the founding father George Washington.

The echo of Obama’s speech and the international media interest that accompanied it made an Arab thinker and a friend of mine make a proposal that I find appropriate — that the Islamic world arranges for a similar speech to be delivered to the Christian world from an important Western capital. Such a proposal is certainly unprecedented because all speeches made by Muslim leaders in the past have been made at elite conferences in which Western people played no major role. Moreover, we are unaware of any speech by a Muslim leader addressed to the Western world, in the way Obama addressed the Islamic world.