Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yes, Obama Deserves All Accolades | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The speech given by US President Barack Obama from Cairo University to the Arab and Islamic world was no ordinary speech, but designates the beginning of a new phase between America and the Arab and Islamic world.

Obama’s speech reached ordinary people all throughout the Arab and Islamic world for a very simple reason which is that Obama spoke with humility and reason, explaining the controversial and ordinary issues to the people. What is important is that these issues are the same issues that we debate everyday around the water cooler and in the coffee-house. The President spoke of all the issues that touch our lives, and he said to the [Arab and Islamic] public that instead of talking about these issues which affect our lives behind closed doors, let us face them and talk to one another [openly].

Obama’s speech addressed those that we have always described as the silent majority, in other words the ordinary citizen who abhors extremism, backwardness and attrition [e.g. war of attrition fought between Egypt and Israel] where the situation is neither that of war nor peace. [Obama speech addressed] the citizen who desires an education, and wishes [only] to live with dignity.

The speech by Obama should have been given to us long ago by an Arab or Islamic leader, not an American one, as we are the victims of poverty, extremism, division and violence, in all its forms and under various pretexts. The Arab and Islamic public should have heard what they heard from Obama in all its clarity and openness a long time ago, with regards to the peace [process], the fight against extremism, the right to education and dignity, women’s rights, the issue of minorities, democracy, and other issues.

The evidence that Obama’s speech reached [the people] can be seen in the welcoming response [that it received] from the majority of people, as well as the apprehension of the extremists. And so here is Al Qaeda losing its mind as Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri mobilize to incite and takfir [declare unbelievers] all those who engage with the Americans, yet they are unaware that they and their organization have become outcasts in the Arab and Islamic world.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, they believe that Obama’s speech contains an unjust view on the Palestinian issue. We do not know how [they can believe this] when Obama insisted upon the right to existence for a Palestinian state, as well as insisting that America will not turn its back on the suffering of the Palestinians.

It is not only the Muslim Brotherhood who is confused [with regards to Obama’s speech], Hamas is as usual playing the game of presenting two faces [to the word], a moderate face, and a hawkish face. And so whilst one face compares Obama to Martin Luther King, another says that Obama’s speech is unjust and contains nothing new. This is normal, and not surprising from Hamas, who is essentially unconcerned with Palestinian unity, or establishing a Palestinian state. This can be seen in the Hamas movement’s order to its gunmen to treat the security agents of the Palestinian Authority as they would the soldiers of the Israeli occupation.

As for Hezbollah, the group said that it did not expect a sermon from Obama, and this is something normal as well, so long as Iran – the leader of all the rejectionists and hesitators [in the region] – disliked Obama’s speech, and in fact were disturbed by it. We noticed something important concerning Iran [during the speech] which is that when the US President spoke about unconditional or positive dialogue with Iran, nobody at the Cairo University applauded, and this is an important message to those who are paying attention.

In summary, Obama’s speech has arrived, and was welcomed, and now we must ensure that we do not miss any more opportunities, we must take action in a practical and effective manner to take advantage of the positive momentum seen in our region.