Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Speech in Cairo

Barack Obama was in Cairo today for around 8 hours, and he gave a speech at Cairo University. I wasn't at home at the time so I couldn't watch it live, but I got messages from friends asking what I thought of the speech. Apparently everyone watched it and everyone I've spoken to since was really impressed. For the first time in a while Egyptians (and others) are excited and positive about something political. Maybe because Bush's speeches were such disasters, or maybe because we can see goodwill behind Obama's words, but he really does seem to be someone that can change things. I had my doubts when he got elected since I doubt any American president has the power to change as much as we seem to think he can. And Obama has stopped talking about torture, Guantanamo etc and is very cautious about what he says about Israel-Palestine. But still, the speech today showed that he is making some kind of effort to reach out to Muslims. Some nice moments from the speech...

How he spoke Arabic at the beginning, saying "shukran" and "salaam alaikum".

When he mentioned Al-Azhar, and how it has existed for 1000 years. He described Azhar and Cairo University as representing the harmony between tradition and progress.

America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. They overlap and share common principles: justice, progress, tolerance. There must be an effort to listen and learn from each other.

He mentioned the Qur'an and quoted from it, which of course got a lot of applause. I have to say it touched me too. He mentioned hearing the adaan when he lived in Indonesia, and the amazing accomplishments of Islamic civilization which paved the way for Europe's renaissance and enlightenment.

How interconnected the world is today; a problem in one country has repurcussions everywhere. Thus it is in everyone's best interest to help others.

Those were some of the good points he made. Of course I didn't believe the whole "we want to leave Afghanistan; we were forced to attack; etc etc" but I guess he has to say that.
Wish I had been able to see him!


Candice said...

I wish I could have heard it! Anyway, there were some articles that were not too positive about him going there before it happened, but seriously, if it gives hope to people in Egypt and in the Arab world, and Muslim world too, then it's a complete success.

Umm Omar said...

I was waiting for you to post about this!

I was touched, too by those moments in the speech when he quoted from the quran and said, "assalamu alaikum." He's really trying to reach out and reverse the disasters Bush created all over the world. I believe he's sincere and that he really does want change, but at the same time, I think his hands are tied on some issues. the US will always act in the interest of the US, regardless of who's in the White House, and a lot of the time that means the slaughter and oppression of innocent Muslims. A lot people are so skeptical of Obama and don't buy him at all. I hope I'm not just thinking wishfully. Only time will tell, I guess.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Candice: Egypt is seen as a "problematic ally" for the US, since we're not a democracy and we have a lot of problems, but I don't see the US making too much noise about it since they need Egypt too. It was so nice to see everyone interrupt Obama with applause when he mentioned democracy. A lot of people in the region really want it, especially the youth, and Obama being elected in the US (when no one thought it could happen) has definitely inspired a lot of people.

Umm Omar: lol you made me laugh whne you said "reverse the disasters Bush created all over the world". Bush was really something!
I believe Obama is sincere too, and although he may not have the power to do everything he wants, his honesty and charisma will still make him popular. His hands are definitely tied on some issues, like Israel-Palestine and Afghanistan. Also didn't his proposal to close Guantanamo get rejected?
How do you feel watching Obama, as an American citizen? Did you vote by the way (if you don't mind me asking)?

Thanks for posting ladies!

Umm Omar said...

Heck yea! I voted! And I was with lots of family and friends (all Muslim voters) when it was announced that Obama won. We all cheered like crazy. During the election, too, it was so amazing to watch everyone go out and vote. My parents who have been US citizens for over 30 years voted for the first time during that election, and there was a story like that in every home. I am really so hopeful of this presidency. Right before 9-11, I remember feeling like Muslims were *finally* becoming a part of the social fabric of this country-and then we were set back 100 years. It was so disappointing, but we are all starting to feel like we can integrate again.
The closing of Guantanomo wasn't rejected, as far as I know. The first day in office, Obama put forth the proposal and since then, the closing has been underway, slowly but surely. I know that a problem though was where all the prisoners would go. I believe Obama wants them to be brought to the US for trial, but many oppose that, as you can imagine. And I believe, too, that Obama also ordered that extreme methods of interrogation (tortue) stop in the prison.
Yes, on the Israel-Palestine issue, he has no choice but to support Israel in every way. During the campaign, many Muslims here would say with huge disappointment, "But Obama supports Israel!" And I would always tell them that he has no choice in that matter. He's always so cautious when he talks about that issue, I'm really anxious to see what's going to become of it, and everything else for that matter.

Lisa said...

I really enjoyed his speech, but it left me with two problems. The first is that Michelle doesn't seem to like this side of him. Everytime he talks nicely to Muslims about Islam, she glares with her perfect arms and sleeveless dresses. That scares me, because it's like she's going to hinder him from going far enough to actually propose solutions.

The second is that he doesn't seem to have an actual plan. Especially for Guatanamo.

You probably know if you've read my political blog that I voted for McCain on the single issue of abortion, due especially to my work at Hope Clinic and seeing it up close.

As an American, I would like to see him say great things about America AND to Muslims and the rest of the world. What has happened instead is that he's the first prez in awhile to denigrate America's achievements. Love you dear!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Umm Omar: wow, it sounds amazing to hear how excited you were. I wish people all over the world could experience that. As much as I hate a lot of America's foreign policy, I have to admit that this could not have happened in many countries.

Lisa: it's true that he didn't mention many solid plans but maybe that's just because he wanted to make a broad sweeping speech. Haven't been watching the news so I don't know if he has plans in general.
In this speech I remember him saying a lot of good things about America, and how Arabs and Muslims also need to change the way we see America. He mentioned how him getting elected couldn't have happened anywhere else, and how so many great advancements are coming out of America.
The thing is a lot of Egyptians and Arabs aren't very happy with the US right now, understandably, and so he's kind of limited. If he gave an hour-long speech about how great America is, I don't think it would go down well.
Love you too and I hope you're well!

Jasmine said...

I think what sets him apart from everyone else is that he is able to put himself into other people's positions and understand their needs: need to recognised, understood, appreciated and so on.

So many politicians fail to do that - pushing their agendas at the cost of another instead of seeking compatibility and mutual benefit.

Before he was elected World War 3 was on the cards - but already the people are feeling better. I haven't been following his activities so much, but honestly - you can feel the change in people's consiousnesses in the air ;0) Jasmine x

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jasmine: I agree, I think people can sense that he is trying to put himself in their position and thus trying to understand them more. I think his multicultural background also helps. I heard that Bush has never left the States before he became president. I don't know if this is true but is it is
Thanks for commenting :)