WASHINGTON, June 5 (Xinhua) -- United Sates President
Barack Obama gave a much publicized speech on Thursday at Cairo University in a
bid to begin healing the wide rift between his country and the Muslim world.
Despite good intentions, the question remains whether
he can mend relations in a region where the U.S. is often despised and where
many people believe the West is waging a war against Islam, experts said.
In his speech, Obama called for a "new beginning
between the United States and Muslims," and said the two sides could confront
militancy and pursue peace together.
The address was laced with references to Islam's
important place in history, as the president remarked how the religion carried
the torch of learning through many centuries and paved the way for European
Appealing to the masses, however, has limited impact
on governments in countries where the people have little say in how their nation
is run, which is often the case in the region, Reva Bhalla, director of analysis
at Stratfor, a global intelligence company, said.
She said Iran is one example, where shifting public
opinion one way or another would do little to improve the government's stance
toward the United States.
The strategy could pay off, however, in that it could
curtail the influence of radical Islam in the region, as militants need a
sympathetic population for their movements to survive, Bhalla said.
"But that's easier said than done," she said.
Still, Obama is regarded more highly than his
predecessor in the Middle East, where people recognize the more inclusive nature
of his diplomatic approach, which is a sharp departure from former U.S.
President George W. Bush's unilateralism, she said.
But to start improving relations, he must first
outline a Middle East policy, as the speech contained no official U.S. foreign
policy pronouncement, Stephen Grand, director of the project on U.S. relations
with the Islamic world at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the
Brookings Institute, said.
Matthew R.J. Brodsky, a fellow at the American
Foreign Policy Council, said that whatever the policy, the United States must
either side with the pro-U.S. camp which includes Egypt and Saudi Arabia or
reach out to unfriendly governments in countries such asIran and Syria.
Any attempt to work with both camps would backfire,
as the two sides are embroiled in a cold war and have "irreconcilable
differences," he said.
Grand said whichever official policy is implemented,
it could take years to create a positive image of the United States.
He said aside from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and military operations in Pakistan, the United States is often criticized in
the region for supporting governments seen by their citizens as incompetent and
incapable of providing basic services, which stirs anti-U.S. anger and mistrust
that extremist groups often exploit.
Those feelings of prejudice are often mutual, as many
Americans, especially since September 11 attacks, unfairly equate Islam with
terrorism, Grand said.
This "cycle of suspicion and discord" must stop,
Obama said in his speech. "I consider it part of my responsibility as president
of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever
The same goes for anti-U.S. sentiment, Obama said.
"Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude
stereotype of a self-interested empire."
Grand said these sentiments can be reversed by
increasing educational and cultural exchanges which Obama mentioned in his
speech. Firsthand exposure to the United States would do much to reduce the
level of public support that groups such as al-Qaeda need to survive..
Despite Obama's message of cooperation, al-Qaeda
leader Osama bin Laden released an audio statement on Wednesday saying that the
president enraged Muslims by ordering Pakistan to crack down on radicals in the
Grand said such statements underscore the reason why
Obama is reaching out to the region -- to counter the influence of terrorist
groups and bring Muslims over to his side.
Lisa Curtis and James Phillips, senior research
fellows at the Washington-based think tank Heritage Foundation, said bin Laden's
message demonstrates that al-Qaeda is worried about the president's ability to
appeal to the Muslim community and is searching for ways to blunt his ability to
Both said that Al-Qaeda is focusing its efforts on
Pakistan, where U.S. policies are often blamed for the rash of suicide bombings
in the country over the last two years.
Grand said the trip to the Middle East is likely the
first of several attempts to reconcile differences, and the speech will by no
means be the last one on the "new beginning" the president will deliver in the
LOS ANGELES, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Muslim leaders in the United States hailed President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo on Thursday, saying his remarks were a refreshing change from his predecessors and offered hope for the future.
"He met beyond our expectations," said Maher Hathout, senior adviser and board member of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Full story
CAIRO, June 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim World in Cairo on Thursday heralds a new chapter in the relations between the United States and the Muslim world, said analysts.
Obama reiterated that Islam is not contradicting with the United States and the United States was based mainly on integration of religions, Egypt's Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufed Shehab told Xinhua. Full story
CAIRO, June 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama wrapped up Thursday afternoon his nine-hour visit to Cairo, where he delivered a keynote speech aimed at a "new beginning" of relations with Muslims.
"I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect," Obama said in his speech, which is attended by more than a thousand audiences in the Conference Hall of Cairo University. Full story
CAIRO, June 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a much-anticipated keynote speech in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on June 4, in his latest attempt to reach out to Muslims. Analysts said the speech aims at rebuilding U.S. credibility in the Muslim world, which was tarnished during the Bush era.
Though he has made a successful debut in a Muslim country two months ago, Turkey does not belong to the Arab world that represents nearly half of the Muslim countries. The NATO member, which stands across Europe and Asia and is carrying out reforms for a long-expected EU membership, is deemed by the West as part of Europe. His wide-ranging speech in the Turkish parliament focused on the cooperation of the two allies rather than a comprehensive stance on Muslim issues. Full story