Cautious Optimism One Year After The Cairo Speech


Opinion polls have shown that President Barack Obama’s widely-publicized speech in Cairo last June calling for improved U.S. relations with the Muslim world raised public expectations for such an outcome.  But nearly one year after the speech, those public hopes could turn into disappointment – especially with regard to Middle East peace – unless the Obama Administration begins delivering on some of its Cairo promises.

That’s the view of scholars at a recent symposium at the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington, D.C.  The center’s symposium was called U.S. Relations with the Muslim World: One Year after Cairo. Its goal was to evaluate the current state of that relationship, and discuss the most effective ways President Obama can fulfill his Cairo promises.

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Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, noted there has been some improvement in how Muslims view the U.S. since President Obama took office.  But he said there is still a lot of anger towards America, especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Chloe Berwind-Dart, director-general of the Nigerian development group Cherish Foundation, says the Israel-Palestine conflict represents an open wound for the Muslim majority in Nigeria.  Chloe Berwind-Dart is director-general of the Nigerian development group Cherish Foundation.

“So long as that crisis continues to burn and we have not yet reached the two-state solution with self determination for everyone involved, that will continue to be a huge point of tension.”

As the U.S. State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith has spoken with Muslims around the world.  In virtually all those conversations, she told the conference, people called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict their primary concern. While she acknowledged the difficulty of reaching a two-state solution to that long-running divide, Pandith said that has been a priority for the Obama administration from the very beginning.