Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, June 9, 2009
Comments on Barack Obama's Cairo Speech of June 4, 2009
2 minutes, 27 seconds video showing aspects of the Zionist Israeli occupation of Palestine:
1. President Barack Obama's Speech in Cairo, Egypt
By Dr. James Zogby
President of Arab American Institute
In appearances on ABC, NBC Evening News, CNN, Fox News, and BBC World News, and other outlets, Dr. Zogby joined the sentiment of political leaders around the world who hailed the President's speech as a positive step for US-Arab relations.
Among the major contributions made by this speech, three stand out (the bolded emphasis is ours):
1. The President of the United States made his aspirations for a lasting, peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict crystal clear:
"But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's
interest, America's interest, and the world's interest."
2. The President also helped make clear the major contributions Islam has made to world civilization:
"As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch."
3. The President opened space in our political discourse to speak about Palestinian suffering and aspirations, describing them in language never before used by political leaders (again, the emphasis in bold is ours):
"On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."
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Arab Americans can play a key role in the weeks to come, acting as a bridge of understanding between two cultures. Let our voices tell the stories of our ancestors who lived in the Middle East and came to the United States, made this country their home. Let our knowledge of Middle Eastern cultures and traditions, and our love for America, act as a guide towards understanding and peace.
As our President said in his speech at Cairo University on June 4: "There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground."
* * *
There is so much to do...
AAI will be working hard in the coming months to sustain the tremendous strides made in US-Middle East relations in just these few short months:
We will work with the Department of Justice to ensure that the Administration follows through on Attorney General Holder's promise to "return to robust civil rights enforcement...in defending religious freedoms." We will report on elections in Lebanon-from Lebanon- and foster a dialog that allows democratically elected representatives from both the US and Lebanon to work together to build stronger relation and a peaceful future in the region. We will continue to host meetings among Arab Americans, members of Congress, White House officials, and others, to make sure that the voice of 4 million Arab Americans is heard. · On June 15, AAI is co-hosting "United for the Two-State Solution: The Popular Mandate for Israeli-Palestinian Peace", a panel discussion for Hill staffers, with pollsters from J Street, Israel and Palestine on how Israeli, Palestinian, Arab American and Jewish American public opinion supports peace. Watch the AAI website for more information.
Let us know what you are doing to further the cause of a lasting and just peace.
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Barak Hussein Obama’s Speech: Frank and Constructive
By S A Hannan of Bangladesh
But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to
each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said
only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen
to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to
seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and
speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try
to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task
before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human
beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.---- I
know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we
can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of
division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it
isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations
are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can
occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over
the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never
move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of
every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability
to reimagine the world, to remake this world.”
3. The editor of The Muslim News analyses the Obama Cairo speech
By Ahmed Versi
I must admit President Barack Obama’s speech at Cairo University was a landmark speech. The tone and the language were refreshing. He was respectful and impressive. However, there wasn’t anything new, as most of what he said has been previously mentioned in Turkey in addition to various interviews.
He covered most of the issues that are of concern to Muslims around the world. His rhetoric was measured and balanced but on the political aspect of issues, he failed to convince. Take the example of Palestine and Israel. Obama acknowledged the sufferings of the Palestinians and Israelis. “Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust… [Palestinians] endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation,” he said.
But when it came to politics, he, like his predecessor, took the pro-Israeli line. Obama asks the Palestinians to abandon violence but says nothing about the Israeli violence. “It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus,” he argues. There was not a word about the greater Israeli bombing of Gaza in December and January when hundreds of civilians, including old women and children were killed.
He says violence to resist occupation does not succeed, so why did America lead military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait? Why did they use and are still using violence in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve their aims? Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for decades and diplomacy has never worked. Palestinians argue the world doesn’t care and the only solution left for them is resistance.
The US President also spoke on nuclear weapons and chose to pick on Iran, which does not possess, nor is there any evidence that it is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, just mere suspicions. He remains opposed to Iran being allowed to enrich its own uranium when Japan, Brazil and others are allowed to, as it is a right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In contrast, not a single word was uttered about Israel’s existing stockpile of between 100 to 300 nuclear weapons, the only state in the Middle East to have any. It seems when Israel is concerned, Obama, just like his predecessor, has not changed.
For the speech to have its impact, Obama will have to take courage and be fair and balanced on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. On Iraq and Afghanistan, US troops will have to leave; the earlier the better for the region. On Pakistan, use of drones which has killed many civilians, will have to stop.
The goodwill that Obama had when he became the President of the United States of America is slowly eroding. He has to match his actions to his rhetoric to bring about the change that he promised.
Ahmed J Versi, Editor, The Muslim News
4. Islamic World Reacts To Obama's Cairo Speech
Written in Prague by Ron Synovitz, and Andy Heil
June 04, 2009
Initial reactions from the Islamic world to U.S. President Barack
"new beginning" speech at Cairo University were generally but not
universally positive, ranging from a broad welcome by government officials
and moderate clerics to outright rejection by some Islamist groups like
the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent ccun.org.