Obama’s Speech: First Responses from the Region
The New York Times surveys the responses of a few Arab students to President Obama‘s speech in Cairo. Sulafah Al Shami, a Jordanian student, called it “a big break from the tone and style that President Bush employed in addressing the Arab world.”
Samura Atallah, another Jordanian of Palestinian descent, understood why Obama made a stance on the spread of democracy in the Muslim world but thought that “it would have been wiser if President Obama put forth concrete resolutions on how he will support the civil society in Egypt and the Muslim world in general that would solidify the prospects for democracy.”
In a similar survey by the Los Angeles Times, Mohammad Ali Jassim, a Baghdad shopowner, was encouraged by Obama’s words welcoming all elected voices in the world, even those which the U.S. might disagree with. “It was great to hear that the Americans will leave Iraq to the Iraqis, and that Iraq will be a partner and independent. His speech gave the impression that there will be a new policy for America toward the Muslim world.”
This morning’s Arab newspaper headlines offered a few hints as to how many anticipated the speech during the hours leading up to it. Rosa Al Yousef‘s headlines read “don’t ignore human rights, but don’t interfere with internal politics.” Meanwhile, some booksellers have reported that sales of Obama’s book Dreams of My Father have tripled since his Cairo speech was first announced.
In Israel, reactions to the speech were divided, with leftist parliamentarians praising it for instilling hope in the region, while some, like Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari responded, “we survived Pharaoh, we will survive this.”
Dr. Mohammad Saad Al Katatni, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, who attended the speech, said that “the speech of Obama to the Muslims from Cairo University has many positive aspects” but that Muslims were “waiting to see the actual translation of these words told by Obama.”
The Brotherhood’s English-language website, IkhwanWeb.com, stressed that Obama’s call for democracy, elections and human rights “is all good, but it will be worthless if it [is] not implemented in…Islamic society.”