Obama’s Speech to the Islamic World
Andrew Malcolm has posted the full text of Barack Obama’s speech this morning: What Barack Hussein Obama told Muslims in Egypt.
I was struck by this quote, a straightforward rebuke of the conspiracy theories that are so prevalent in the Arab world (especially in Egypt):
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
And this part, in a country that is rife with Holocaust denial:
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.
Overall, this was a pretty good speech, with the usual boilerplate statements of support for a two-state solution in the Middle East, but also a clear acknowledgment of the Palestinian culture of violence:
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.
Read the whole thing. It’s doubtful that this one speech is going to lead to a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” but it’s certainly going to give the Muslim world a lot to talk about. It will be interesting to watch their reactions.
UPDATE at 6/4/09 9:29:19 am:
I agree with Max Boot’s summation:
Not bad. It could have been better. But it also could have been a lot worse.
UPDATE at 6/4/09 9:35:17 am:
One of my biggest criticisms is the very weak statement Obama made about women’s rights; I think this is one of the most critical issues the Islamic world needs to address in order to effect real change, but Obama spent only three paragraphs on it, and didn’t say much other than to note that women need the right to education:
I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
There’s much more to the overwhelming misogyny of the Islamic world than simply a lack of education, and this is a much larger problem than Obama’s speech seems to recognize.