I’m writing this as I update the Air France 447 story. That story is nuts, very mysterious. The LOST jokes keep pouring in. The similarities are eerie, but still, be tasteful people. If you haven’t seen, we’ve been updating the story all through yesterday and today, so hit up the news section or click the blue link above to see all the developments.
But this isn’t about that. The 447 story has flooded the media so much the last two days that a lot of people are forgetting about a major event happening this week; President Obama’s speech to Islam on Thursday. He will orate from the University of Cairo in Egypt.
The speech is being billed as, potentially, one of his most important as President. That’s true so far, but no one knows what the future holds.
Obama has said he wants to repair, rightfully so, the relationship between America and the Muslim community. He’s definitely the best candidate for that job as someone who can use his wealth of popularity around the world to influence both parties.
He’s a celebrity with the younger generation, a generation that doesn’t see religion as an inhibiting characteristic. His speech should, and probably will be, directed towards the next generation of policy makers and leaders who will essentially define the relationship between the U.S. and Islam for another 50 or so years.
The speech will also be focused on current leaders and influential beings in both communities. A key thing he should stress, I think, is friendship and tolerance.
The way in which Islam is portrayed in western media is not its true form. Extremists have soiled the foundation of the world’s second largest religion. A lot of people have an innate prejudice towards anyone who looks remotely Muslim or even just dark and suspicious.
I’m not Muslim and I’ve experienced that on subways and buses in Toronto.
Obama will also repeat a point that has been stressed in the past, that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not a direct attack on Islam, he’ll say. Many believe they are, however, the battles bear no reflection on religion or the American view of Islam, he’ll say.
“There are misapprehensions about the West on the part of the Muslim world. And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West,” said Obama in an interview with BBC.
That is true. Many of the misunderstandings take place on home soil, both American and Islamic.
The speech won’t focus directly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict that drew media attention yet again after Obama told Israel to stop building settlements in Gaza. That request was denied by Israel.
The speech will however talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. Obama will reference, perhaps, a two-state solution and stress peace in the Middle East (yeah, yeah). A peace that can only be achieved by reaching some fair solution, which will no doubt be tough since neither side wants to give up more than necessary but will have to negotiate and sacrifice to create an amicable resolution.
People in the Muslim world love Obama. “Everybody is looking for him as the magical man,” said Ibrahim El Moallem, an influential cultural figure in Egypt, according to CNN.
“We think if he can handle the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict not in a biased, not in a double-standard way, and if he can really begin to reach an overall, comprehensive, just peace, this will immediately win the heart and mind of the Arab and the Muslim,” he added.
He’s got legions of fans and backers on both ends of both conflict. Arabs trust his judgment, Israelis view him as a reasonable, albeit ambitious, seeker of peace. And Americans, well, just check his approval ratings and compare them to the last guy.
There hasn’t been this much hope surrounding Mid-East peace in some time. But only a few times in history has there been more need.
As both the President of the United States and as someone who has lived in Muslim countries and has Muslim family, Obama has an automatic respect from both sides. He is a representative of both, while being a representative of one.
To Americans he’s Barack Obama, to Muslims he’s Barack Hussein Obama.