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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Obama in Cairo: A New Beginning

In a stunning speech, greeted with cries of “I Love You” from the students of Cairo University, President Obama called for…

A new beginning between the United States and Muslims

This is seen as a pivotal moment this side of the Atlantic, and of course throughout the Middle East and the broader Muslim world, and President Obama breaks with the theocon extremities of the Bush era, to appeal to the peace loving instincts of Islam.

The full text of the speech can be found here.

There’s plenty to digest, so consider this an open thread on the Cairo speech and foreign policy.  


My favourite bit so far: the oft quoted Surah which should trump anything said about apostates in the Hadith.  

The Holy Qur’an teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind … Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace

Here’s where Obama draws a line between himself and the more evangelical(crusading?) premises of neocon interventionism:

America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed

More significantly though, the most contentious and forthright statement was making a direct link between the existential rights to exist of Israel and Palestine.

Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

I’ll happily forget the slight double-take over prisoner abuse photos if Obama is going to step into the ring so boldly in this arena: probably one of the most important issues of our time.  

Just as he did in Philadelphia, Obama has used his back story and personal knowledge (his time spent in Indonesia) to force us to think out of those old polarities of race and religion.

But what does the Moose think? How does this go down in the US? Does it convince the centre as well as the liberal left? And as for the far right… can the deranged ever be saved? Is this just more evidence he’s a secret Muslim?  


  1. a couple of considerations though.  one – he framed this a bit different – not the “muslim world” but rather ‘muslim communities’ which i understand is a hit wit younger people.

    and also – on a personal note – im somewhat dissapointed in the address of women’s issues.  i know that this speech had many demands, pulls and meanings – but i’d be lying if i said it wasn’t a bit of a let down. i may blog about this later.

  2. creamer

     His appeal to liberal thought seems obvious, we want a world that begins to see beyond race and ethnicity. The pragmatist among us desperatley want to see somthing work in the mid-east, and this begins to turn the page on the hatred and blood lusting of the neo-con Bush years.

     Fuck the far right.

    I do worry about Afghanistan/Pakistan derailing his plans, but I think the “Arab Street” considers this somthing foreign to them. His  ability to stand up to hard line Israeli’s and moderate Iran are the key’s.

  3. HappyinVT

    Ahmad Yousuf, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera that Obama’s speech reminded him of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech”.

    About Obama stressing on the legitimacy of Israel, he said the Palestinians must have a state of their own before being asked to recognise another.

    But the message that America is not a threat to the Muslim world is a good signal, he said.

    I watched the second half of the speech live and am watching the first half now.  I woke up to what seemed to be the beginning of the Israel/Palestine portion.  I did notice that the audience applauded during the parts that related to the Palestinians but were stunningly silent during the part about Israeli suffering and right to exist.

    I’m distracted by listening to him so I’ll have to make further comment later.

  4. fogiv

    …and only half awake after a horrid sleepless night, so I’m still digesting the speech and pondering the implications.  That said, my initial impression was awe.  Just the concrete evidence that we have leadership with intellect, after a long storm of diplomatic imbecility, is inspiring an invigorating.  I’ll say this: the rhetoric struck me as deftly strategic, even the aforementioned omissions and gloss-overs (women’s rights, etc.).

  5. psychodrew

    I bet the birthers went batshit when the president called himself “Barack Hussein Obama.”

  6. anna shane

    what an inspirational and honest speech, this will make for waves of discussion, and lead to individual change, which collectively might amount to something.

    I was especially glad he hit my big point, that there needs to be universal educational opportunities, so anyone, anywhere, can learn, read, write, study and teach.  This is a goal that will lead to translation projects to bring literacy in the mother tongue to ordinary people.  

    he defined human rights, something that isn’t a concept in nations ruled by dictators.  

    What he said about women is true – there will be no economic vitality while women are subject to discrimination, where women’s rights are less than men’s.

    You can’t claim to be a man of god if you kill innocents, whoever you are.

    It’s easier to start a war than to end one.

    This is one totally great speech.  thank you Barack Obama, you nailed it, hit it out of the ballpark, and said it to everyone, and that can’t be erased. The challenge is ours.  

  7. “That was the most powerful and persuasive statement to the Muslim community ever delivered by a US President.”

    Anderson Cooper: “Ever?”

    “Yes.  Ever by any American President.”

  8. HappyinVT

    is the fact that this was the first time a sitting president acknowledged the US role in the 1953 Iranian Coup.  Who knows what kind of world it would be if it weren’t for that event.

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