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Lecturing the Muslim world: An analysis of parts of Obama's Cairo speech

By       Message Frank Barat     Permalink
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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 coexistence and co-operation, 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.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 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 not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

Obama does not get into much detail. What does he mean when he talks about “tension rooted in historical forces?”  Is he talking about the fact that, following the end of the “cold war” and the fall of communism, the USA and the West identified Islam as the more fruitful “new enemy?” The military-industrial complex and the different other huge corporations which are the real policy makers of our time breathe war and conflict to strive, colonize, and maximize their profits. With the often-exaggerated “red menace” in the abyss of history, a new evil had to be created. Islam was the most obvious choice.

By “violent extremists”, Obama means Muslim extremists. However, by substituting the term Muslim extremists with Western extremists, another picture emerges. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the support for dictators in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the use of torture, extraordinary rendition “and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in the world to view the West as inevitably hostile not only to the East, but also to human rights.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

Obama uses a very patronizing tone. The one of a Dad, who constantly beats and abuses its child and now and then, tells him: “You need to cooperate with me to achieve peace in this house”. Obama speaks like an Orientalist.

He said, “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

The patronizing tone continues here. Obama is lecturing “Muslims around the world”. It would be really interesting to know what he means when saying “mutual interest.” We know what the interests of the USA are. Staying the only global superpower. To do this, the USA needs to control natural resources (oil and the pipelines for now, water will come later. The USA does not need Middle East oil -, the USA needs to control oil supplies. These are two different things). America relies on its overwhelming military superiority to do so. I am not sure that “Islam” can find much mutual interest in this behavior.

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. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus Unum: "Out of many, one."

After lecturing the overwhelming Muslim audience on why Islam was not evil and telling those in attendance how he will “fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear”, Obama talks about “Muslims perceptions of America” (Again a very patronizing concept. What does Obama know about “Muslims perceptions of America?” Do all Muslims have the same perceptions of the USA?). Unfortunately his case is a lot weaker this time. Obama says “America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.” Every objective historian will fall from his chair hearing this. Millions of people, from South America to Indochina will also find this sentence very hard to swallow. Then, Obama borrows George W Bush rhetoric, “We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words within our borders, and around the world”. Operation “enduring freedom” was based on this concept, right? The problem is that Obama talks about America and about “the Muslim world” as if they were two big blocks, two entities, where everyone has the same opinions and ideals and share the same values. Nowadays our societies are a melting pot of ideas, cultures, opinions, religions and colors. Talking in those terms, Obama discredit himself. He knows better. There is no “we”. There is no “them”. We are all in this together.

When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations.

If Obama is thinking about Iran when talking about “one nation”, his sentence could mean:

When Iran pursues a nuclear weapon (something which has not been proven so far), the risk of nuclear attack by Israel and the USA rises for all nations. (Iran, contrary to statements from the US and Israel, has never threatened any country with nuclear attack).

He goes on to say, “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

This is very interesting. Is Obama talking about the inevitable failure of Israel, the “democratic and Jewish” state?

Obama says, “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.”

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http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/
I am a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (http://www.palestinecampaign.org/index2b.asp) and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. (http://www.icahd.org/eng/). I am on the organizing committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (more...)
 

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Lecturing the Muslim world: An analysis of parts of Obama's Cairo speech