Research Director Shadi Hamid comments how the spirit of Obama’s speech on domestic racial issues holds potential for laying groundwork on a new approach to the Middle East in an op-ed for the Washington Post on March 22, 2008.
While Barack Obama’s speech on race earlier this week was geared primarily toward domestic concerns, as an American of Middle Eastern origin, watching from a café in Jordan, I was struck by the possibilities it offered not only for race relations at home, but for our relationship with Arabs and Muslims abroad.
Obama declared that “the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding.” He was speaking, of course, about the legacy of slavery and segregation. But he might as well have been talking about the burgeoning anger toward America felt by millions of frustrated Muslims around the world. And the conversation Obama tried to initiate — contextualizing radicalism and seeking its source rather than merely denouncing it — is the sort of conversation that could also lay the groundwork for a long-overdue reassessment of our approach to the Middle East.
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