Muslim World is Here, Not There

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 – 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 – Thomas Jefferson – 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.

This entry was posted in Politics by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

150 thoughts on “Muslim World is Here, Not There

  1. Aarti,

    “when was the last time hindus took to the streets to protest the plight of hindus in fiji? or, how many hindus in mumbai, delhi and calcutta took to the streets protesting the horrible treatment of tamil hindus in sri lanka recently?? – not one.”

    Why is protest the ultimate symbol of support? They just demand economic sanctions and boycott of the above mentioned nations.

    “p.s. do you know that despite kashmiri hindus being ethnically cleansed from kashmir, not one kashmiri pandit boy has blown himself up in a crowded srinagar or karachi market.”

    I have never seen a Kashmirian Muslim blowing himself either because of the presence of half of million Indian army.

  2. “Why is protest the ultimate symbol of support? They just demand economic sanctions and boycott of the above mentioned nations. ” - No one did this either

    “I have never seen a Kashmirian Muslim blowing himself either because of the presence of half of million Indian army.” – You’re right here, the preferred method of protest was threatening his Hindu neighbors to leave so that they could join up with their true brothers in Pakistan and summary execution of Hindus when they did not leave. Afterwards it was execution of the few remaining Hindu and Sikh village men still wanting to stay in their ancestral homes. Most of these “half-million” soldiers aren’t in the cities, they patrol the borders with these nuclear powers you may have heard of, Pakistan and China.

  3. Randy-man writes

    India can call itself as a Hindu nation

    why should it? When did India call itself a hindu nation? Have you read the indian constitution or reviewed the platforms of the major political parties. Where did this piece of gibberish come from?

    You are either plain stupid and ignorant OR more likely a troll.

  4. 103, get some kool-aid. I was responding to Razib’s reply that somehow India has chosen not to call itself as a Hindu nation due to some higher standard demanded from the word’s community.

  5. More like your reasoning fails. Has Rambo Rahm questioned the legality of IDF’s tactics in Gaza?

    So if Saudi-American Muslims do not question or openly protest the actions of the Saudi government with regards to human rights, they are automatically culpable too ?

  6. but the analogy is weak insofar as india is the “hindu world” for all practical purposes.but yes, there is a double-standard by may when it comes to india. i suspect that that double standard simply has to do with higher expectations for india in regards to the norms of western liberal democracy as opposed to most muslim countries.

    That’s right. India is more or less a Hindu ummah. But calling that so would flame the “secular progressives”. Maybe it would happen that in the future Hindus could stop desiring the higher standards and regress at least 20% of the voters think so. :-)

    But i think as a principle you would agree that applying double standards are counter productive. I have no doubt that there are atheists / doubters / luke warm religionists within billion+ Muslims who would not want an exclusive “Muslim world”. Maybe now they do not have or dominate the cultural and intellectual scene like their non-Muslim counter parts do in the non-Muslim world. But that should not prevent some one like Obama to concede.

    BTW, I read Obama’s speech transcript. His speech is complex and brilliant. Anyone can read that and thinks Obama partially agrees with his / her position. Maybe that’s what Obama and his speech writers wanted too.

  7. 89 · aarti kaul:
    why do muslims from south asia feel that it’s their responsibility to speak up on the behalf of the muslims from palestine, or in a few rare cases even resort to terrorism against ordinary Jews ? even if you care only for muslims, why not start by caring for muslims in your own back yards first? god knows they can use the help. if the back yard is not good enough, ask your self – when was the last time you saw the palestinians, or any arabs for that matter, take to the streets on behalf of kashmiri or other sub-continental muslims ? i used to live in dubai and have witnessed first hand the way the arabs treat muslims from india, pakistan and bangladesh – like crap, and you can ask anybody who has lived there if you do not believe me.

    You’re right. There’s an informalized caste-system amongst Muslims. This is different from the formalized caste-system amongst Hindus. Both are very bad systems. But for sure, the Kuwaiti’s and Iranians are worth much more than an Indian Muslim. And yes, Desis are treated very badly in Kuwait. OTOH, Turks/Afghanis visiting India are treated very well, and many south Asian Musilms desperately want to claim them as their ancestors.

    Finally, I’ve noticed that us indian Muslims blindly hate Jews, even though the ones of us in India have never met a Jew.

  8. Yeah.. I know that Calling Egypt and Malaysia with 90% and 60% Muslims as part of Muslim world is “secular” but calling India with 80% Hindus as part of Hindu world is “non-secular” in the “secular progressive” lingo

    good strawman!

  9. ut the analogy is weak insofar as india is the “hindu world” for all practical purposes. the “muslim world” is a coherent term because nations like indonesia and senegal don’t share anything besides islam. but yes, there is a double-standard by may when it comes to india

    Which is exactly why we need an akhand bharat.

  10. Pagal Aadmi said :

    including even more surprisingly Razib

    Why are you surprised. Have you seen the Dave Chappelle skit of the blind black man who is a member of the KKK? That skit captures Razib. During British times we had names for people like him.

    ==========================================================================================

    Pointing out that Rahm is not an honest broker in these proceedings is perfectly legitimate. Would India be comfortable taking orders on foreign policy from a Pakistani war general with strong stake in Kashmir? Of course not. Negotiations — honest negotiations — need honest brokers, and Rahm — who chose to serve in Israel’s military rather than our military — is not an honest broker.

    And let’s not make this conversation about India. Even though apparently everything here has to go back to India, it helps to learn that different countries have different situations — wow, what a novel idea. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is an issue of colonialism and occupation. It is a moral issue of how our tax dollars is actively supporting racism, apartheid, and genocide. It’s about how we are not free to question Israel. It’s my money, and I will question why so much of it goes to a racist country.

    The outrage over Rahm is a typical pro-Israel reaction — somehow obfuscate the conversation by latching onto some perceived notion of antisemitism. That’s all the mock outrage is about. It’s a game. Of course all the Arab- and Muslim-bashing is cool.

    Pagal Aadmi: thank you for the video of Israeli reactions to Obama. It is eye opening. Here it is again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxt9HwfPwPo

  11. 89 · aarti kaul: why do muslims from south asia feel that it’s their responsibility to speak up on the behalf of the muslims from palestine, or in a few rare cases even resort to terrorism against ordinary Jews ? even if you care only for muslims, why not start by caring for muslims in your own back yards first? god knows they can use the help.

    aarti kaul, how about you take your own advice and focus on your own problems and not worry so much about what Muslim South Asians care about? How about you worry about feeding the starving 200 million Hindus in India? How about you worry about providing decent education and health care for your Hindu bretherens in India? Instead of bleeding your heart over Israel and how the nasty Muslims are bashing them, how about you take care of the Indian Goans who are treated as scum by Israeli tourists? How about you address your own back yard and not worry so much as what Muslims are concerned with? Why are Indian Hindus so up in arms when Israel is criticized — enough to come to this site and defend Israel?

  12. It is a moral issue of how our tax dollars is actively supporting racism, apartheid, and genocide…It’s my money, and I will question why so much of it goes to a racist country.

    Can we please stop bashing the Saudia Arabia and Egypt?

  13. It’s about how we are not free to question Israel

    This statement, placed within the context of the larger comment, is self-contradictory.

  14. Thanks Paagal for the youtube link. It’s amazing to see how disrespectful these young people are to Obama despite being so generally ignorant. One young lady did not even know who Netenyahu was (and she was a PoliSci major). There was even a generally polite guy who said “He doesn’t understand that this country is ours”. With this kind of hatred and ignorance, achieving peace is going to be very difficult.

  15. There’s an informalized caste-system amongst Muslims. This is different from the formalized caste-system amongst Hindus.

    Is it the system that’s bad or institutionalized discrimination based on it?

  16. “Pointing out that Rahm is not an honest broker in these proceedings is perfectly legitimate…”

    fair point and i do agree that Rahm is pro-israeli – his term in IDF and his own father being a militant in Irgun are powerful indicators along with the fact that he has attended several pro-israeli rallies. on the same breath, however to suggest that we need more powerful muslims (and thus biased to the palestinian cause) in the administration is hypocritical. i do understand world isn’t fair and so countering biases with other biases is sort of the norm and so Taz’s position is somewhat understandable, though it is not the one i would advocate..

  17. just to close the discussion about india not choosing to call itself a hindu nation…it has nothing to do with sucking up to the west or internalizing some half-understood phoren ideal…

    Leaders like Ambedkar, Nehru, Gandhi and others who created the indian constitution had a deep knowledge and understanding of indian history. They were aware that india is inherently a federation or family of cultures. And that great and successful indian kingdoms, such as those of Ashok or Akbar had been explicitly non-sectarian. Ashok was a buddhist convert but his edicts from 300BC are striking in their multi-cultural orientation. Akbar, you are probably aware, invented his own multi-culti religion and came dangerously close to being officially declared a heretic by the islamic orthodoxy.

  18. Paagal wrote:

    a posteriori …cite …wall of evidence …not dispositive…indisputable

    A masterful lawyerly argument, Paagal. You could turn straw into gold, water into wine. Next time I get a speeding ticket, I know who to call.

    Your interpretation of the post is very agreeable, but I don’t think Taz meant that at all. I think she meant what most commentors here assume she meant. But she’s chosen not to clarify the post or participate in the comments, let’s quit with the exegisis of her text.

    Nom wrote: Rahm is not an honest broker in these proceedings is perfectly legitimate. Would India be comfortable taking orders on foreign policy from a Pakistani war general with strong stake in Kashmir?

    Jesus. Rahm was a civilian volounteer who repaired trucks in Israel for a few weeks at age 32. Calm down.

  19. Anyone can read that and thinks Obama partially agrees with his / her position. Maybe that’s what Obama and his speech writers wanted too.

    goldilocks politics. inflate feelings, but get it just right. deflate neither side, but do not hyperinflate either. extremes do not exactly like what he says, but it makes them think – “hey if they are against him, he can’t be all that bad”. clintonian triangulation taken to next level and then globalized.

  20. I don’t think Taz was making the point that Emanual’s stint with the IDF colors his views in a way that would make influence his views on Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    No, Taz was saying that Rahm’s appointment made it pretty clear that the Palestinian Israeli conflict wasn’t going to be resolved in 4 years. This is a huge stretch and what I objected to. First off, it is not clear what Rahm’s actual policy views on Isreal, or a two state solution are (just look at the records of Begin who was part of the Irgun, or Sharon who participated in the Sabra and shatilla massacres). Second to go from that to claiming that Obama toes this same line is pretty ridiculous. Third, the Palestinian Israeli conflict is not going to be resolved in 4 years, and not because of Rahm and Obama.

    I am not making any allegations of anti-semitism or whatever, just that the argument is exactly of the style made by the fringes on the other side.

  21. clintonian triangulation taken to next level and then globalized.

    Now, now, dipanjan. These days, we call it nuanced bipartisanship. (my exegesis of his modus operandi aside, I do admire Obama – he is a skilful operator, and maybe something will come to fruition from his methods as he seems far too disciplined to be distracted by dalliances in the Oval Office, and the consequent fallout. Or at least, he will insist on no dresses, blue or otherwise, to avoid even a small smattering of evidence).

  22. “Jesus. Rahm was a civilian volounteer who repaired trucks in Israel for a few weeks at age 32. Calm down.”

    If you look from all angles, he is very much a pro-israeli and he is NOT an honest broker,

    1. IDF service
    2. He is associated with several pro-israeli rallies and think-tanks
    3. His father’s commentary of his position would shed some light here too:

    “Dr. Benjamin Emanuel said he was convinced that his son’s appointment would be good for Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

  23. If you look from all angles, he is very much a pro-israeli and he is NOT an honest broker,

    I’m confused. Are pro-Israeli people not allowed to be at the negotiating table? What exactly is the gripe here? That Rahm Emmanuel might have opinions on the issue? Opinions contrary to yours?

    God! This democracy thing is hard!!!

  24. clintonian triangulation taken to next level and then globalized. Now, now, dipanjan. These days, we call it nuanced bipartisanship

    first they called it nixonian, then triangulation, now nuanced bipartisanship. yes, obama is these things, a cunning moderate indeed, though one with clear liberal instincts to be sure, a tad braver than the other two, and minus the misogyny, racism, abuse of power, and dirty election tricks (except for that nafta bs).

  25. It seems hypocritical to say that “the Muslim world is here,” i.e. that American Muslims is what matters to you, but then to deride Obama and R.A. because of their stance on Israel/Palestine. Obviously that’s a “Muslim” issue that the “Muslim world” cares a lot about.

  26. She is stating that he cannot be fair on the issue as he volunteered for the Israeli army. I would imagine that after volunteering for the Israeli army, he is not exactly neautral on the conflict.

    that statement strips out a little context that ikram added, doesn’t it?

  27. “I’m confused. Are pro-Israeli people not allowed to be at the negotiating table? What exactly is the gripe here? That Rahm Emmanuel might have opinions on the issue? Opinions contrary to yours?”

    he would be appropriate on the israeli side of the negotiating table. But not the best person to be an honest broker, which Obama is trying to be. to be clear, i don’t have much gripe with Rahm, but it is hard to deny that he is pro-israeli. but i don’t even think he is the man behind Israeli-palestinian initiatives, given dismal record of his and his associates from the past, camp david etc. i don’t think (or atleast hope) Obama is handing over the Israeli-palestinian peace issue to Rahm, and Rahm with all his power still reports to Obama, I have some faith in Obama — lets see what happens in the next four years.

  28. But not the best person to be an honest broker, which Obama is trying to be. to be clear, i don’t have much gripe with Rahm, but it is hard to deny that he is pro-israeli.

    But he’s not the broker. He’s the chief of staff and a source of advice to Obama.

  29. “But he’s not the broker. He’s the chief of staff and a source of advice to Obama.”

    huh? you didn’t read what i wrote, i suppose. whatever!

  30. By the (pro-anything means you can’t be an honest broker) token then Najeeb, anyone (Muslim or otherwise) who has expressed any support for the Palestinian cause whether through blog posts, protests, fundraising for aid or more uh, dramatic activities, should also be disqualified from sitting at the peace process table on behalf of the Americans or providing advice or counsel to President Obama. After all, if being pro-Israeli is an issue, then surely being pro-Palestinian must be similarly fraught with peace talk failure?

    I somehow doubt that either the Muslim or Jewish world, to use the parlance of this post, would be reassurred by having Buddhists and atheists of non middle-eastern stock who profess themselves to be relatively indifferent to the issue be the primary drivers of/advisors to the peace process.

    I don’t think that’s what you’re intending to say, but I think the goose/gander logic carries through.

    I do agree with other poster that use of “Muslim world” terminology, especially when you seek to import it to non-Muslim dominated areas, is troublesome. If the Muslim world is in America then by God and history so is the Jewish world and IF America has to pick a world, I’m pretty sure I know where it’s sentiments lie (and in making such a choice, the leaders will actually reflect the will of the majority of the populace).

  31. I do agree with other poster that use of “Muslim world” terminology, especially when you seek to import it to non-Muslim dominated areas, is troublesome. If the Muslim world is in America then by God and history so is the Jewish world and IF America has to pick a world, I’m pretty sure I know where it’s sentiments lie (and in making such a choice, the leaders will actually reflect the will of the majority of the populace).

    fyi, there’s a specific school of islamic law which asserts that anywhere muslims can freely practice their religion is part of the muslim world. the reason is that in early islam there was an understanding that muslims should not live under the rule of non-muslims, but only in the muslim. when non-muslims started conquering areas where muslims lived in large numbers the alternatives were to emigrate, or convert to the new religion of the rulers. but a third way was to declare that if the non-muslim ruler allowed for freedom of religion than by definition it was part of the muslim world. this was what happened in russia during the 18th century when muslim khanates were conquered by catherine’s armies.

  32. and to be clear, i think it’s a different thing for muslims to talk about the muslim world, and non-muslims to accept that definition.

  33. Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who says “I’ve known Rahm for a long time,” reports that “he is deeply and emotionally committed to Israel and its safety. We’ve talked about the issue a dozen times; it’s something he thinks about constantly…”
  34. So if Saudi-American Muslims do not question or openly protest the actions of the Saudi government with regards to human rights, they are automatically culpable too ?

    I am sorry but that is a ridiculous retort.

    For some yet unknown and strange reason, you are now conflating culpability with tolerance.

    I am not suggesting that Rahm is responsible for the actions of the IDF. However, if a Saudi American is in US Congress and always votes down the line with the interests of the Saudi royal and votes against any proposals advancing human rights for Saudis in US Congress, then yes, that Saudi American is not neutral on the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

    Likewise, Rahm’s voting record on Israel is very Pro-Israel. Does it mean that other Jewish and Non-Jewish members of Congress who have a very Pro-Israel voting record are also not neutral? Yes, they are not neutral on that issue either.

    Taz was not picking on his Jewishness. I think the confusion might be caused by the fact that she talked about the representation of Muslims in the White House and then talked about Rahm and the IDF. People here took that to mean that she was also referring to the Jewishness of Rahm based on her earlier sentence about Muslims in the White House.

  35. That’s interesting Razib, and I can certainly understand the lawyerballing tendencies and usage within the Muslim community (you’ve noted that there is a specific school of Islamic law, which I trust means that there are other schools which do not agree with this characterization). I certainly understand and respect the “whatever gets you through the day” approach to human existence. However, for everyone else in that non-Muslim dominated community, the wording (and connotations) can be troublesome (and truly, if the Muslim world is “here”, why are American taxpayers footing the bill for the trip? Couldn’t Obama just set up another bulletproof platform in Central Park?). I think the overwhelming majority of Americans take pride in America’s secular or Christian status, depending on whom you talk to, and would bristle at being considered part of the “Muslim world”. To me, it seems a bit disingenuous to demand respect from others on “sensitive” topics and yet display a remarkable lack of same when it comes to one’s own acts/omissions.

  36. sorry, razib, I missed your second comment. I think we agree regarding acceptance of the term by non-Muslims and I reiterate that the use of teh “Muslim world” term in this particular context (America is part of the Muslim world, and because of that Muslim interests should have a place in American policy), is troublesome. Is Obama expected to state that the Muslim world includes America? Because if so, his political career is over (and justifiably, as he does not represent the views of the majority of his constituents at this point in time. And, in my own view, hopefully never. I prefer an America that is part of the separation of church and state secular world).

  37. 131 razib,

    fyi, there’s a specific school of islamic law which asserts that anywhere muslims can freely practice their religion is part of the muslim world.

    Divisions_of_the_world_in_Islam talks about Dar al Islam, Dar al harb and a few other distinctions. Does Muslim World = Dar al Islam, that is what needs clarification? Oxford dictionary defnitions here.

    When the American administration talks about the Muslim World, they are referring to this.

    Also see, Is India a ’Dar-ul-Harb’? Are Hindus ’Kafirs’? by Syed Shahabuddin who used to be an Indian MP.

  38. nom – “how about you take your own advice and focus on your own problems and not worry so much about what Muslim South Asians care about?”

    as much as i would prefer to focus on the millions of starving hindus, due to personal experiences, i have to draw attention to more pressing issues; islamist terrorism.

  39. anyone (Muslim or otherwise) who has expressed any support for the Palestinian cause whether through blog posts, protests, fundraising for aid or more uh, dramatic activities, should also be disqualified from sitting at the peace process table on behalf of the Americans or providing advice or counsel to President Obama.

    I would apply the same logic to a pro-palestinian, if he was in that role. If you are as emotionally as invested as Rahm in Israeli issue, he cannot be objective. now the question is whether you think he is that emotional about israeli issue to forgo his primary mission as Obama’s counsel and my guess is yes, may be you and others would disagree. but like i said earlier, he is not in charge of israeli-palestinian peace process, at least i don’t think.

  40. What’s interesting to me is that this thread has nothing to do with “Islamist terrorism” or Kashmir and yet the usual suspects are back trying to make it be about those topics. Seems like a Pavlov’s dog response to anything that even contains the word “Muslim”. Same goes from trying to make Taz out to be an anti-semite simply because she points out why RE’s appointment made it seem like Obama was going to continue the pro-Israeli status quo.

  41. Did anyone else notice when Obama started talking about the holocaust or any of the other struggles that the jewish people want through, the crowd became quiet.

    Obama been in office for a little over 4 months but he already done 2 speeches in the Muslim world in Turkey and Egypt which has him saying that America/Israel are to blame for all of the problems in the muslim world. Since he was in Egypt I wonder if he thought about saying sorry to the father of Mohamed Atta for the United States being to blame for the death of his son.

    This post is the kind of thing that you would find on CAIR website.

  42. “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.”” What did you think about the ownership that the Muslim World has to take in Obama’s speech? Were you as pleasantly surprised at that?

    “But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”

    ” …That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together. The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.”

    “…Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

    “…For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. 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.”

    “…Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past. America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.”

    “Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.”

    And other parts in his speech expecting something in back in return, which I am going to leave to you to read. What are your thoughts on what Obama expects of Muslims? You were silent about that.

  43. What’s interesting to me is that this thread has nothing to do with “Islamist terrorism”

    yes, terror/terrorism was not used even once in the speech. we now call it “violent extremism” – why use one word when you can use two? it’s indeed interesting that terrorism was the dog that did not quite bark, unlike Obama’s dear friend god who barked a lot – “be conscious of god and speak always the truth”, “all of us share common aspirations – to love our god”, “when the holy land of three great faiths is the place of peace that god intended it to be”, “and the rights of all god’s children are respected”, “a place for all of the children of abraham to mingle peacefully”, “we know that is god’s vision”, “and may god’s peace be upon you”. isn’t there a single surviving atheist in the “muslim world” who deserves some nuance?

  44. Why does every group expect Obama to name one member of their cultural background to a prominent position in the Administration?? He can’t possibly do that…and even if he could, are there people of each culture with enough experience, etc to elevate? I would love for him to succeed in implementing changes, however, the expectations are so high from everyone that he will not satisfy all…

  45. Firstly this has nothing to do with the article and more so with some of the comments above.

    I find it offensive, that some of you sitting on your high horses out here in the West feel that its fair for you to judge what happens in Saudi Arabia having never lived there or possibly been there.

    For the person who said boycott Hajj, its a religious obligation has nothing to do with the country’s policy. If you think its helping the regime than it really isnt, all the money that comes in goes back into building better, safer infrastructure and housing for the pilgrims when they come.

    I am an expat who has lived most of my adult life there, and I am not arab. I have a fair share of friends who are non arab, non muslim who were born and raised in that country who love and cherish their memories of Saudi Arabia. So if you think its not possible to live there or it may possibly kill or suffocate you, just know that there are over a couple 1000 expat kids who have freely called or call that home.

    The point I am trying to make here is that there are many of us who live abroad and adapt to each country we move on to, and love it for its good and its bad.

    Lastly, if you must have an opinion at least be balanced, and look up the statistics on how safe it is to live in Middle Eastern countries (GCC specifically)relative to Western nations. Murder/Rape/Crime rate.

  46. sarahTCK, many of the readers and some of the contributors of this website have relatives scattered across the world. europe, USA, canada, australia, and yes, the arab world. so some of the perceptions of racism are probably not based on what people read, but what people have experienced. e.g., i have an uncle educated for several years in germany, who worked in saudi arabia, and now lives in scotland.

  47. Obama been in office for a little over 4 months but he already done 2 speeches in the Muslim world in Turkey and Egypt which has him saying that America/Israel are to blame for all of the problems in the muslim world. Since he was in Egypt I wonder if he thought about saying sorry to the father of Mohamed Atta for the United States being to blame for the death of his son. This post is the kind of thing that you would find on CAIR website.

    This comment is the kind of thing that you would find on pajamas media. Or Fox and friends.

  48. also, re: foreign policy, human rights, etc.

    1) there is no “even-handed” and objective perspective. subjectivity is the name of the game, and your values and associations color everything. evangelical christians care about about persecution of christians in china, and american buddhists and new agers care a lot about persecution of tibetan buddhists (the two groups have allied several times on the general issue of chinese persecution of religious groups). this doesn’t mean that one or the other is ‘objectively’ more offensive to human rights, but people care more about people who are more like them.

    2) when i’ve expressed a general disinterest in the outcome of, or the details of, the israeli-palestinian issue to jewish or muslim acquaintances and friends a common reaction is outrage that i could not care about the “the most important international issue of the day.” of course the two groups had very different foci :-) (i.e., the oppression of arabs vs. the hypothetical destruction of the jewish state).

  49. the israeli-palestinian issue to jewish or muslim acquaintances and friends a common reaction is outrage that i could not care about the “the most important international issue of the day

    Understandable that Arabs or Jews would think that way. But what is amazing is that desi-muslims would be more concerned about the 6 million Palestinians rather than the 200million people in Af-Pak that Obama talked about!

  50. But what is amazing is that desi-muslims would be more concerned about the 6 million Palestinians rather than the 200million people in Af-Pak that Obama talked about!

    people in the af-pak area care a lot about af-pak. but why should muslims from other areas of south asia care about af-pakis inordinately? by inordinately, i mean more than palestinian arabs? it isn’t a big secret that af-pakis tend to view muslims of south india and bangladesh as racially inferior and less authentically muslim (some of which i think has been internalized by bangladeshis from what i have seen, but that’s a different topic), so i think that cools a bit of the fellow feeling that might otherwise exist.

    as an example my father knows urdu because he went to university in islamabad. but he has gotten into arguments with pakistanis who asserted that knowledge of urdu made you a better muslim. his position was that only arabic has a privilege as a religious language in sunni islam, and so he rejected any assertion of greater islamic identity of urdu over bengali. some bangladeshi muslims engage in a more general project of “reforming” their islam to be more in line with arab practices, and i think some of this has to do with a perception that they are shucking off mughali-urdu cultural domination. e.g., switching from hanafi to shafi school of sharia as one of my uncles did in the 1980s (he did this after having spent time in the arab world and feeling that arab islam was more authentic than the traditions which were local to bangaldesh).

    i’m elaborating on this level of pedantic detail because of the subjective nature of identity and affinity means that sometimes you have to be cautious about projecting particular loyalties onto other people base on your image of what their loyalties are. you know your own values and position much better than you do of others.

    there are complex cultural, historical and racial dynamics when it comes to how non-arab muslims relate to arabs. i have talked to persian friends of mine about the bizarre contradictions in the persian attitude toward arabs, which exhibits both attitudes of cultural and racial superiority along with the due deference given to arab civilization and causes because of their sincere muslim faith. the holy sites of islam are mostly in the lands of the arabs, so naturally muslims the world over will have care. similarly, the roman catholic church has always had a religious interest in jerusalem, egypt and syria because three of the ancient originally patriarchates were located here. and naturally when the buddhas of bamyan were about to be destroyed many buddhist nations in southeast asia and east asian made diplomatic pleas to stop the taliban (and the local hazara shia who opposed the action were at the time being genocided by the pashtun sunnis).

    in any case, just a long way of saying that it was natural that taz’s post would rub people the wrong way because not everyone shares her presuppositions. there doesn’t seem to be a “reasonable” and “objective” way to talk about a lot of these social & political issues which are exceedingly complex because group norms and values are so critical in how we see things.