There was a lot of hype this week about President Obama’s address to the “Muslim world” that he delivered some time Thursday early morning in Cairo. I looked upon this delivery with skepticism – as a Muslim in America, to me the Muslim world is here, not there. Being Muslim is a faith, not a region. As if reading my mind, The White House released the following video.
One of the questions that I did have about President Obama in regards to the Muslim community was how there was a lack of representation in his administration. We all know Israeli army serving Rahm Emanuel is his Chief of Staff, and with that appointment, it was pretty clear that the Palestine-Israeli conflict was not going to be resolved for the next four years. What we see in the video is three prominent Muslims (two of them Desi) serving in the White House administration, yet, it still seems to me that their positions are not high profile enough to influence international and domestic policy.
I’m not totally bashing on the President for his Muslim politics. In fact, Obama’s speech today does take a surprising amount of ownership over the power the United States has inflicted on the “Muslim world.”
We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world â€“ tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam. [newyorktimes]
His speech is articulate and smart. He continues to talk about his personal relationship with Islam, as well as the intertwined history of Muslims in America.
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. T… And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers â€“ Thomas Jefferson â€“ kept in his personal library. [newyorktimes]
To me, the video and the speech are both what I as a Muslim in America wanted to see at minimum come out of Obama’s leadership when I voted for him. His first hundred days plus some have filled me with slight skeptism that he was just another cog in the wheel. His boycott of the United Nation’s Conference on Racism because of language around Israel reinforced this in my mind. Though I realize change can’t happen over night, I do feel like this week he has finally taken the right steps to start building bridges. I guess we’ll just have to see how the rest of the Muslim world accepts his speech and how soon action to words follow.