Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Obama…Passing Through | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The US President came to the region and made his historic and “magical” speech, and then he left. Even before his visit people were excited [about Obama’s speech], trying to find out what he was going to say, what key points he would focus upon, and how these points would be transformed into future policies and legislation. After Obama’s captivating speech, people were left in a state of ambivalence between belief and amazement, as well as small group of doubters who did not believe [Obama’s words].

There are many important issues that Obama’s speech focused upon, perhaps the most important of these is the state of enmity between America and Islam, and Obama’s highlighting of the positive aspects and the common ground between the two, showing respect and appreciation [for Islam]. Obama spoke in a new and contrasting language that was entirely contrary to that of his predecessor George W. Bush, who with his recklessness and incompetence expanded the gap and magnified the problems between America and the Islamic world. Obama [on the other hand] has remedied his country’s position and its incorrect policies on issues such as the invasion of Iraq, the war on terror, Guantanamo Bay, as well as the Abu Ghraib prison [scandal] that brought shame and dishonor onto America and its human rights record.

The speech that Obama delivered was different in style and substance, and was full of humility and the spirit of cooperation. This led one of my friends who was watching the speech with me to comment “this man deserves our prayer” as he knows how to act intelligently, such as when he quoted the Quran, or when he began his speech with the words assalaamu alaykum [Peace be upon you]. These are good and important signs which build bridges of trust with a society that has experienced turbulent years of anxious dealings with America.

However the issue is deeper and more comprehensive than this; Obama mentioned complex and controversial issues that requires serious cooperation and a just view from all parties involved if solutions are to be found. Obama admitted openly that decade old differences cannot be solved by one speech because the issue is far more complicated than this. However Barack “Hussein” Obama is in a unique position to achieve genuine change in the relationship between America and the Islamic world. Obama has Muslim relatives, his father was a Muslim, and he himself was educated in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population worldwide. Obama has an “Islamic” legacy that enables him to build credible and reliable bridges of trust [with the Islamic world].

The wave of euphoria that followed Obama’s positive visit to the region must be followed by positive action and initiatives in order to stoke the fires [of change]. It is clear that there is a change in US policy content, and we have gone from hearing phrases like the “axis of evil” to a President who quotes the Prophet’s Moses, Jesus and Mohamed, and recalls the Isra [Night Journey of Prophet Mohamed]. A President who confirms the [high] status of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions; this is a real transition to genuine political discourse.

However the speech also confirmed the presence of a large and imminent clash between US President Obama and extremist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially with regards the issue of Israeli settlements [on the occupied territories], and the need to immediately put a stop to this. Obama must also gain recognition to both countries’ right of existence; Israel and Palestine, as well as [decide] the status of Jerusalem.

Will the Arab take advantage of these exceptional and historic circumstances and cooperate to solve their problems and deal with their challenges?

The White House is aware that this speech is a huge political opportunity, and that the Arabs do not represent the entire Islamic world. Obama’s speech has been posted upon various internet websites, including social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. The White House also provided important excerpts of the speech in four different languages via SMS text messaging. The speech was an important and genuine opportunity for change, and once the reaction to this speech subsides the question will be; what happens next?

For the issue must go beyond mere entertainment.