Foreign Policy Blogs

Another Fresh Start?

Last week U.S. President Obama directly spoke to the Muslim world (again), and it seems that this time everyone has taken notice. In the President’s historic address from Cairo – supported by Al Azhar and Cairo University, there was great humility presented in order to try and ease the current tensions between the Muslim world and the United States. Here, in Tajikistan, various religious figures went to the U.S. Embassy to hear the address of the President. There was much surprise and delight that President Obama started with the traditional Arabic language greeting. In general, though, the positive reactions here were no different than the standard responses which the U.S. President receives for his generally outstanding oratory. He is indeed a great public speaker who knows his audience very well and almost never makes a mistake. But what do such great words mean to your enemies?

The words coming from Cairo were very similar to previous speeches (Bush administration) – with the exception that they were delivered by a person who has managed to earn more trust from extraordinary numbers of people around the world. This trust may only have been gained on account of his international background and upbringing – or the fact that he has not started any wars (merely continued them).

The speech included great historical quotes – such as from John Adams: “The U.S. has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Muslims.” But what was President Obama’s own best line? It may have been that “Islam is a part of America” – as this fact in itself reflects a bridge which connects two worlds and continues to strengthen the relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Or, it may have been in what was not said – such as the word terrorism. The real goal of such grand speeches is to alienate extremists (terrorists?) from the vast majority of moderate Muslims. However, that segment of radical Islam will not be persuaded by oratory and historical brilliance. They certainly do not respect religious diversity of the kind President Obama praised.

 

Author

Karin Esposito

Karin Esposito is blogging on religion and politics from her base in Central Asia. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Tajikistan Dialogue Project in Dushanbe. The Project is run through the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with the support of PDIV of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the project is to establish practical mechanisms for co-existence and peaceful conflict resolution between Islamic and secular representatives in Tajikistan. After receiving a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 2007, she worked in Tajikistan for the Bureau of Human Rights and later as a Visting Professor of Politics and Law at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP). Ms. Esposito also holds a Master's in Contemporary Iranian Politics (2007) from the School of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran and a Master's in International Relations (2003) from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GIIDS) in Switzerland.

Areas of Focus:
Islam; Christianity; Secularism;

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