Obama: Speeches and Dreams, but ACTION??!
On Wednesday, I received a call from a local radio station asking for some reaction to the anticipated speech Obama was expected to give the next day (today) in Cairo. The producer asked me how many Muslims would be sitting up to watch the speech live (3:00 a.m. in the morning our time!) and how he could get in touch with them.
I had never considered the possibility that there would be ANY Muslims sitting up to that late an hour just to listen to what Obama has to say to “the Muslim World” so I told him I would be extremely surprised if any Arab or Muslim sat up to watch Obama live.
We don’t have much confidence in the words of our leaders any more, for too long, we have heard voices of greatness followed by despicable actions from our leaders…George Bush being the prime example.
Who doesn’t recall the wonderful words of “I’m a Uniter, not a divider”?
Words that told us all what a wonderful faith Islam is and how Muslims are peaceful people…followed almost immediately by actions against Arabs and Muslims in this country; Muslims being thrown in jail for years, without charges or trials, sham trials for others with preposterous charges that led nowhere and ended with a final charge and sentence that was farcical when compared with the initial excitement and hype of the “detention” of the Muslim.
Muslims locally and the world over, are used to hearing wonderful words that have no substantive impact.
This time as well, I told the producer, we are expecting great words but typically, we are expecting him to tell Palestinians to “stop their violence” and to tell the Israelis that they must work with “democratic Palestinian representatives”. As Sadat said, “Americans stroke the Israeli cheek with the front of their hand and slap Arabs with the back of their hand”.
We were also concerned that Obama’s speech was addressed to “the Muslim world”, “which world would that be?” I asked. We are as diverse as Christians, with different politics driving us, different sects, different people, who can craft a message that applies to us all?
I guessed that he would probably be addressing Iran in some manner, reaching out to them, but before Iran can be expected to believe the US, we must stop funding destabilizing activities in Iran…activities for which Congress approved $450 million a year of so ago…we must stop backing groups that are listed as “terrorist organizations” even by the US.
He will probably discuss “Democracy”, but what should Muslims understand form the fact that he stopped in Saudi Arabia for “advice” and is going to give his speech in Egypt….both bastions of tyranny?
What about the democratically-elected government of Hamas, that we have colluded with Israel to “strangle” (US-Israeli term)?
Finally, before the “Muslim world” can be expected to believe much of what is said in grand speeches, Muslims locally, would like to see actual reversals of the Bush-era persecutions against Muslims. We would like to see Guantanamo prisoners actually released or, charged and tried immediately…NOT a change of rhetoric in which the Obama Congress and Administration seems to embrace the Bush perspectives by referring to the prisoners as “dangerous terrorists” even before they have been charged with anything.
We Muslims would like to see the Obama Administration reprimand airlines that arbitrarily remove Arabs and Muslims from planes just because some passenger or crew-member declares s-he is “uncomfortable” by their presence.
Only when Arabs and Muslims are treated as equals HERE, will the “Muslim world” start believing rhetoric that the US wants to “reset the relationship”.
And the reality…
It turned out that this is basically what Obama did say, although I liked some of his calls, like his commitments for education, very much (I will reserve a deeper discussion of each of these items, for a later time). The actual text is at the end with portions of (my) note, in red highlights
Three times, he told Arabs and Muslims that they must stop the violence. “It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or, to blow up old women on a bus “. Presumably, it must be okay for Israelis to blow up houses with sleeping children and old Palestinian women in them, with bombs, missiles and tank shells because “Israel has the right to defend itself”.
“Vile stereotypes of Jews” are apparently unacceptable, but vile stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims or Islam, must still be considered free speech. Way to go.
To Israel, he only said they should allow progress for Palestinians.
“Continued” settlement expansion was not good…was the “existing” state of settlements fine then
There was also a grand statement “to confront violent extremism in all its forms”, but the words that followed, only carried examples of Muslim violent extremism. Presumably, “violent extremism does not exist among Jews, Hindus or Christians, despite the mountains of dead bodies with their marks on them
I noted with satisfaction, that his position changed over the past one week. Last week, Obama gave an interview to the BBC in which he recalled 9-11 as “they killed 3000 Americans”. This time however, he noted that the 3000 victims were from many countries
Afghanistan though, is being re-written; apparently we invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban were involved in the 9-11 attack…never mind the fact of the many contemporaneous news stories, informing us that the Taliban were quite willing to give up Ben Laden if the US would simply go through the usual international motions for extraditing someone
I was stunned by the fact that the Iraq invasion was simply and quietly by-passed by saying it was a “Iraq was a war of choice”. Here he is, speaking to “the Muslim world”, acknowledging that the invasion of Iraq was an arbitrary action and an action that resulted in over a MILLION deaths (TWO million since 1991), uncountable maimed, nuclear material spread over the whole country, infrastructure destroyed and that does not even deserve an apology!!!!
I understand that America…my country is a great country, greater than any country in history, but can Caesar not even bring himself to say I deeply regret the destruction and deaths that resulted in an ill-conceived invasion?
I liked his call for the end of “this cycle of suspicion and discord”, I would like to see it reflected in the US first, by perhaps, telling Fatherland Security to end the largesse of payments for teaching classes for “security and terrorism” or, “understanding and sensitivity of minorities” to firms that are actually deep in the business of spreading hate and fear of Islam and Muslims; firms like SSI and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for starters (I am sure there are many more!). It may also help Obama “fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear”.
I whole-heartedly agree with him that “Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith”. Far too many Muslims continue to remain mired in the arrogant outlook that they have the only key to God and to Heaven and everyone else…Muslims or not…must be ostracized. I believe such Muslims are in for quite a shock when, in the next life, they find themselves being directed to Hell instead of Heaven.
Let us hope that the Obama who returns to the US, will start the “re-imagination and re-make this world” by starting with America and American Muslims; there is nothing like setting a good example to get the world to follow.