Now I am not a morning person by any means. But when I first heard CNN would start covering President Obama’s big Cairo speech at 6 a.m., I set my alarm clock for 5:55 a.m. and hoped I’d have the energy and presence of mind to stumble to my couch and tiredly watch him orate.
I did not. But luckily we have this glorious internet that allowed me to catch the whole thing just a half hour ago. Thanks to Al Gore for that invention.
Most of you won’t be surprised to hear that I liked the speech. I thought it was really effective in its own way and for its own purpose, which was to get Muslims and Americans thinking about their attitudes toward one another and to show the Arab world that America’s new government is committed to mending international relationships that have been negatively affected by Muslim extremists.
He acknowledged “no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust” a message to those who believe he can solve this problem quickly and easily.
Early on, Obama spoke of an urgent issue, the Israel-Palestine conflict and the need for a two-state solution.
“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” he said.
Obama’s goal is to get the two parties talking about a possible amicable parting of ways. A good approach, since he isn’t advocating a certain methodology. He’s just asking them to sit and talk to see where it leads.
While past presidents, like Bush, have shown no shame in taking sides in the conflict Obama is trying to be neutral and satisfy both parties at once. So far it’s going over well, he’s chosen his words wisely.
In his speech he said that the bond between the U.S. is permanent, however the situation and the treatment of Palestinians is “intolerable.” See? Wise.
The president spoke about the attitude of Muslims in regard to America and vice versa. Of the Muslim attitude, Obama said that the U.S.’s past efforts to advocate their way of life abroad has hampered relations between the two sides.
“”¦the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam” he said, and added that the “cycle of suspicion and discord” must come to an end.
In regard to America’s view of Muslims, he said what I predicted he would in my last post, that extremist Muslim groups have soiled the foundation of an otherwise peaceful religion.
“Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile” he said.
He also repeated that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but added that they would continue to battle extremism in all parts of the world “because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women and children.”
Obama added that the U.S. does not want to keep its troops in Afghanistan, but would not bring them home until he was confident extremism had been defeated there and in Pakistan, where the Taliban is now running rampant.
He also talked about tensions surrounding Iran and their mission to become a nuclear power. “Any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said. Iran would obviously not be OK with that.
Obama spoke of one issue that, surprisingly, resonated particularly well with everyone in the audience: women’s rights. He rejected the stereotypical attitude some of the West throws at Muslim women.
“I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality” he said. “Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential.” Amen.
Obama made many references to the Qu’ran and at the end received a standing ovation from the crowd. He gave his speech at the University of Cairo where his crowd was full of a mixture of the young (among whom he has a sweeping popularity) and the old, more traditional men and women who listened to his speech with an apparent open mind and open heart.
Obama will travel to Germany and France before heading back to D.C. on June 7.