THIS IS A SPECIAL SERIES on a topic the whole world is buzzing about right now. Please, take a moment and add your thoughts. I’m hoping for a spirited discussion that will provide a glimpse of how Americans are responding.
Why is this topic so important? Obama’s historic speech in Cairo heralded a new beginning in relations between the United States and Muslim communities around the world—“one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition,” the president said.
The wide-ranging speech spanned history, politics, religion; in it, he noted three major sources of the tension between the United States and Muslim communities: extremism in all its forms, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and the responsibilities and rights of nations regarding nuclear weapons. Stereotyping on all sides could be added.
Seeking common ground, he said that America and Islam “share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
He called for a “sustained effort” to find common ground, to focus more on what we share than on what divides us. He ended his speech quoting the sacred texts in the Abrahamic tradition: Koran, Talmud, Bible.
Over 75% of respondents to an online poll in participating Muslim nations viewed the speech favorably. Over half said they thought relations with America would improve, and that the United States would promote a solution to the war in Iraq that was beneficial to the Arab world. About 40% felt strongly that America would support the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Conservative critics of the speech say that it was part of Obama’s overseas “apology tour.” Some feel it weakens America’s influence and strengths the resolve of America’s adversaries. I don’t see that. But the speech did raise expectations—and critics in the Muslim world were quick to point out that words have to be matched with deeds. Obama has the best chance of any recent American president of following up words with deeds.
What’s your reaction? Did Obama’s speech help or hurt America’s national security? Tell us how you see the speech and why you think it helped or hurt.
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