Six years ago, a prominent British Muslim politician, Lady Sayeeda Warsi, argued that Islamophobia in Britain had passed the “dinner table test.” Never has this rung truer than today, for Britain and other Western...KEEP READING
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The Cairo Speech: A Quick Analysis
Some early analyses of President Obama's historic address to the Muslim world in Cairo today have noted that some of Obama's professions of unity with the Muslim world merely echo words President Bush said after 9/11. The implication is that deeds, not words, matter.
Words can have remarkable power, in and of themselves. President Bush could say similar words to Obama – but when he also spoke about "crusades," or about posses that would bring back Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," it struck many Muslims as though he was just having too much fun with his new "war of terror," to use Borat's term.
Obama's words exceeded those of Bush in eloquence and balance and strategy. He could show a distinct appreciation for Muslim culture, even and especially within the American democratic experiment, which allowed him to challenge Muslims to move to a better place. The same applies to his sense of balance within the Middle East. Balance, in fact, is a defining aspect of Obama's rhetoric and temperament.
Obama showed resolve and courage, in the minds of his audience, by addressing one of the great controversies of the day:
The applause from the audience then positioned it for the balancing act, which was to receive this news from Obama:
Obama also was able to say, in heartfelt fashion:
That allowed him to then say that Muslims need more of that spirit now. "Among some Muslims," he noted, "there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith."
In that, and in his discussion of the battle against extremists, he showed great emotional intelligence, appealing directly to Islamic principles to convince the audience of the need for a better way:
The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) 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 promoting peace.
Similarly, he appealed skillfully to higher principles as it relates to the Palestinian plight:
Thousands of experts and pols and pundits weighed in recently with their suggestions for what Obama should say. It is a sign of our good fortune, even within crises, that we are able to witness an American president with the rhetorical and strategic skill to top all their best counsel.
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