Is President Obama going the right way about creating common ground between America and Islam? Peter Westmore reports.
In his historic address at Cairo University, US President Barack Obama declared that he wanted to create common ground between America and Islam.
He stated that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story”, citing Morocco’s early recognition of American independence in 1778, and reminding his audience of the US-Tripoli treaty of 1796-97, which denied that the United States bore any “enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity” of Muslims. He called for a “new beginning” in American-Islamic relations, based on “mutual interest and respect”.
The President also spoke of America’s commitment to democratic values, but declared that America would not impose its version of democracy on others.
It was strange that these remarks were made just after the President had visited Saudi Arabia, one of America’s strongest allies in the Arab world, where he praised the wisdom of Saudi King Abdullah, an absolute monarch who does not permit elections.
President Obama’s speech was delivered in Egypt, another long-standing American ally in the Arab world. However, President Mubarek’s Egypt is officially a secular state, and Egypt is no democracy. Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981 with an iron fist, with detention facilities and with a pervasive security apparatus which is engaged in systematic torture of dissidents, as documented by local and international rights groups.
President Obama’s apology to the Islamic world was, in context, an indirect criticism of his predecessor President George W. Bush’s “war on terror”, and the Bush Administration’s confinement of al Qaeda terror suspects at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they were beyond the reach of American law.
But did Obama’s rhetoric impress the Arab world? Despite his olive-branch, Iranian voters returned to office the vitriolically anti-American President Ahmadinejad, who claimed an overwhelming victory in Iran’s presidential election.
This echoed the response of North Korea’s Kim Jung-il, who staged a nuclear test and missile firings after Obama had offered an olive-branch to the reclusive North Korean dictator.
As one American observer noted, “The next steps for the US are not nearly as important as is learning from this experience. The President’s supporters need to recognise that not everybody in the world can be appealed to through appeasement. Many people are not at all disposed to our culture and freedoms.”
– Peter Westmore.