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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Thoughts on President Obama’s Speech by 100 Arab & Muslim Leaders

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“President Obama’s Cairo speech was unprecedented in a number of ways. Firstly, it sought to establish common ground with Muslims by stressing that human rights and democracy, for example, are shared universal concerns and that there are strong historical links between the West and the Islamic world. His carefully crafted speech avoided the polarizing language of the Bush administration – no us vs. them. Secondly, and this is highly significant, Obama stressed that differences that exist are based on concrete political issues, not on fundamental differences in values and world-view. Thirdly, I personally was struck by the note of humility and spirit of conciliation that characterized the speech. We all know the very real constraints placed on American presidents when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Obama’s acknowledgment that American foreign policy has been misguided in the past in shoring up dictatorships in the Middle East, which has contributed to the current Muslim disenchantment with the US, is clearly a step in the right direction”

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Asma Afsaruddin, Chair, CSID Board of Directors, USA

“I watch the speech in it’s entirety, and I was impressed at the Presidents demeanor and command of words. I have great expectations for this president and the relationship between we Muslims and the USA. May Allah-swt protect him and us, and bless to be the best we can in this life and grant us all the home of the hereafter.”

Imam Kamara AbdilHaqq Muhammad, USA

“Obama’s speech demonstrates the veracity of Allah where it is said in Qur’an: We shall raise a people (to trust this revelation) and they will not be like you”. Here is a leader in the Mold of Muhammad (SAAWS) for a we Muslims, a people whose leadship does not reflect trust in Allah nor anyonger an understanding of Humanity’s Fitra nor the Qur’an.”

Frederick Aldeen

“In our words and deeds we create the world around us, and with his powerful rhetoric and his powerful position no one is in a better position to do so than Barack Hussein Obama. He is to be applauded for the ambition and eloquence of his Cairo speech, and for the way he so elegantly punctured claims that one group or another is the sole historical victim in tragic conflicts. But he is to be cautioned against some of the one-dimensional assumpxions to which the speech fell victim. The good news is that it is not just to Barack Obama to define Muslims. In the end, individually and in collectives of all sorts, they will define themselves and, indeed, continue to do so in ways that repudiate a monolithic notion that they are only defined by their religion.”

Anthony Tirado Chase, Associate Professor and Chair, Diplomacy & World Affairs, Occidental College

Violent extremism in all of its forms

“As a Muslim, I wasn’t expecting too much from this speech because past experiences have taught us Muslims that the West always labels Muslims as “violent terrorists.” However, I respect Mr. Obama very much for not once relating the word “terrorism” to Muslims. It was smart of him to do so as we Muslims suffer from the label and are tired of it. I respect the President’s effort to change this stereotype, but there’s more work to be done. His speech was very emotional, but we cannot simply judge his words; we have to wait and see the actions and evaluate the results. President Barack Hussein Obama shows a lot of potential.”

Nagwa Badran, Egypx

“I think reasonable men reject violence and extremism. Obama addressed Hamas to end bombardment of southern Isreali towns,but failed to condemn Israel for causing so much destruction and killing in Gaza. The American Government and the European Union never questioned Isreal’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Israel is violent and extreme. If Hamas fights Isreal it is because it is fighting for its existence and not because it is a terrorist organization. I wish Obama would come out and tell Isreal to get out of palestinian lands. Mr. Bush, with the help of his Zionist friends, coined “terrorism” and refused to define the term, and the Arabs or Muslims got stuck with it.”

Dr. Ghazi T. Farah, Philadelphia University, USA

“We are inspired by the fact that America has elected a man worthy of the values it represents and above all a human being capable of understanding that a nation, like each of us, is never perfect. Where and when a nation finds that it has deviated from its values, it is the duty of its leaders (and in a democracy, also its citizens) to bring the ship of State back to its intended course. By acknowledging past mistakes in US policy, you not only answer your people’s call for change and accountability, you ultimately serve your nation’s and people’s security for by addressing the legitimate grievances our nations and peoples have suffered as a result of such mistakes, you ultimately defeat the terrorists who purport to manipulate such grievances as a means towards their vicious ends. I wish you every success in promoting peace within and among our civilizations.”

Mona Ali Khalil, USA

“I was very pleased to see President Barack Hussein Obama making the distinction between Islam and extremism. It’s important for each Muslim to see the USA making a strong distinction between what is Islam, a religion of tolerance, peace and respect, and what is extremism, a political ideology using violence to achieve its totalitarian political objectives. The second thing I appreciated a lot was not hearing President Obama saying words like “terrorism” or the very hateful “World War against Terror”. I do think that “extremism” is a more accurate term and that the average Muslim could well live with it. This distinction between the two things is pretty crucial to any winnable strategy against groups like Al-Qaeda. Of course, it alone will not be enough to win the fight. That’s why the other elements of Obama’s speech are crucial.”

Aziz Enhaili, Morocco

“Violent extremism flourishes in poor states, the same like spread of communism in the last century. To combat islamic radicalism, economic development is needed. Osama Bin Laden chose poor Islamic States, like Afghanistan and Pakistan to spread his perverted understanding of Islam. Although he is a rich man, he would like to be a hero. There are a lot of oligarchs in these poor states. The U.S.A. needs to pursue a policy of economic development in poor Islamic states like Egypx, Yemen, Algeria, Pakistan, etc. similar to those that were instituted in Southeast Asia after the failure of the Vietnam war. Encouraging American multinational companies to invest in these states is essential to combat extremism.”

Dr. Medhat Khafagy, Acting chief of Ibn Khaldoun Center for Developmental Studies, Egypx

“None of American presidents had the realistic vision that Obama has shown with regard to the various world problems. He was very clear to separate Islam from violence and extremism. All Muslims are against extremism as well as all people of the Earth.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Qatar

“Violence is not inherent in Islam excepx in cases strictly illustrated by the Glorious Qur’an. The problem, therefore, lies in the arsenic prescripxion undertaken by few individuals and whose truth is muted by inaction of the ‘ulama and seconded by the silent-ignorant majority. And certainly, the Islamic Ummah deserves better champions than those ‘perverters’ of Islam.”

Octa Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc., the Philippines

“For me, the clearest way to judge Obama’s impact is by the response of Al-Qa’ida. Both Zawahiri and Bin Laden himself released audiotapes and this clearly shows they are very scared their narrative is being threatened by Obama. I also thought it was ingenious how Obama visited both Saudi Arabia and Egypx, the home countries of both Bin Laden and Zawahiri. I think that was a subtle but strong message to Al Qa’ida, and they are scared. I thought it ingenious how the entire speech communicated the central theme of his agenda, which is of open and truthful communication. He said, “nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East. The hypocrisy of the past (and political connectedness) has been one of the grievances used by extremist groups like Al-Qa’ida to rally support.”

Agatha Glowacki, USA

“We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.” America can avenge the killing of 3000 Americans by killing 2 millions of Muslims. Tell me how Muslims can and should avenge the killing of 2 million Muslim innocents by Americans? If America cannot tolerate the extremist Muslims, why should Muslims tolerate the extremist America? I do not mean to say that revenge is the best policy, but if the US can talk of fighting the “extremists,” why should not Muslims talk of fighting the “extremist” states like Israel and America?”

Dr. Javed Jamil, Director of PEACE, India

“His intentions are noble and great. I do not expect any major achievements as long as parties concerned remain adamant in their views. Violent extremism is a product of wrong US / Western foreign policies of the past, and partisan attitude towards Israel in spite of its nuclear arsenal and hatred towards Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslim world. Unless this changes, nothing substantial can be achieved. I only wish good luck to Obama, and may Allah bless him for his efforts.”

Syed Azizuddin, Saudi Arabia

The situation between Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab World

“The final test of President Obama’s Cairo speech will be results on the ground. All parties should be held to their promises and commitments, step by step, and all agreements should be in writing and signed by each party. The objective should be peace, security and justice for all. Justice includes freedom of movement, economic opportunity, reasonable standards of medical care, opportunities from kindergarten up for education and a peaceful civic society. The speech laid the groundwork. Now the work begins to implement the goals.”

Leo Kramer, USA

“Mr. Obama showed courage in acknowledging and recognizing previous wrong decisions and practices such as disposing an elected government in Iran, the war on Iraq, the war on terror and the Delta camp. However, what he said about the plight of the people of Palestine is a disappointment; he failed to recognize them as victims of the colonial settler state of Israel. He was strong on humanizing the suffering and needs of Israel and denounced the right of Palestinians to resist occupation. He failed to answer the basic question: “why should the Palestinians suffer for the sins of Europe and why should they be stripped of their homeland to establish a Zionist one?””

Steve Nasser, Australia

“From a Muslim perspective, the Palestinian drama is the perfect example of a non-balancing U.S. policy toward the parts of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This percepxion made it easier for extremists like Al-Qaeda to have a room to play against the USA and their allies in the region. That’s why no efficient strategy countering the enemies of the USA here could be possible as long as the Arab-Israeli conflict still inflame the region. The most important step to succeed here is the creation of a real and viable Palestinian State. President Barack Obama was right when he said that this state is in the interest of the USA, Israel and the whole world.”

Aziz Enhaili, Morocco

“Being an Arab I personally find certain choices of words and phrases used in his speech – to say the least – disturbing. First, he avoided use of the word “occupation” or “expulsion”; he found it more convenient to call it “dislocation.” Second, why did he use the phrase “Neighboring lands” when he said: “Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security”? I presume he avoided using the phrase “neighboring countries” as it will imply that the Palestinian refugees do not belong to these countries and deserve to return to their own homeland. The word displacement gives an impression that the Palestinians must have left their lands of their own free will and were not expelled by an occupying force.”

Salam El-Ghanim, Ammon News.net, Holland

“Was it wrong for the French resistance to use violence against the Nazis or similarly all Freedom Fighters across history against their occupiers (including the Americans themselves who fought bravely against their occupier) for Mr. Obama to condemn resistance, referring to Hamas. What about the Israeli savagery during their latest invasion of Gaza? Why does Mr. Obama not call the current Israeli government to recognize all previous signed agreement with the Palestinians and for the right of existence of Palestine, as he asked Hamas to do. To be fair, the recognition should be mutual. Finally, may God bless you and may Peace and Mercy of God be upon you. I sincerely pray for you, because you need all the support and prayers of all those who wish you to succeed in your universal mission.”

Dr. Aly El-Kabbany, Great Britain

“I welcome and congratulate you for your categorical and well-defined speech in Egypx addressing the Muslim world. I have been working here in Pakistan for quite some time in the area of Middle East Studies, and the most important aspect that policy makers sometimes seem to miss in its cause for terrorism is the issue of Palestine. All the time publications and speeches from extremist groups and leaders, we find the Palestine question as example of Western Extremism and its injustice faced by Palestinians as validating excuses for any terrorist act against individuals and institutions of the West. Your speech for me is a ray of hope that just solution of Palestine issue could snatch that last remaining excuse from extremists. I wish you good luck in your positive and human-loving agenda.”

Raees Ahmed Mughal, Lecturer, Government Superior Science College, Pakistan

“May God bless and keep you safe as you set forth to balance the moral and ethical pendulum of the United States. Taking on the issue of Israel’s violations of Human Rights in particular will, as you well know, earn you many enemies. Please be cautious, strident and persistent. You are a courageous leader, an inspiration and a God send. Don’t let the naysayers on any side block your efforts. We will succeed, just as we did with your presence in our highest office.”

Dr. Najma M. Adam, USA

“Thank you for your deep, fair, and courageous speech. I think your message is heard in the Muslim World and it is already making a positive difference in the American-Muslim relations. I would like to emphasize the importance of apology and forgiveness in peace making. Apology and forgiveness, religious and non-religious, are neurological events that might reverse the effects of trauma by forming new neurological pathways that can interrupx the links between memory centers and emotional centers that keep resentments alive. I suggest an establishment of an international day of apology and forgiveness in order to educate people about these important corrective mechanisms in human relations.”

Dr. Majed A. Ashy, Associate Researcher in Psychiatry, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Saudi Arabia

“Bravo to President Obama for an outstanding and courageous speech! President Obama may need to use pressure on the Israelis to achieve his objectives of implementing the 2-State solution ASAP – but he will need a strong civil society movement on both sides to support his action. Indeed it is crucial to strengthen all the Palestinians who are seeking justice, respect, dignity, and a Palestinian State, using non-violent means. And the thousands of activists on both sides, engaged to build peace with justice, will need a strong US support.”

Dr. Anne Marie Codur, Co-Founder of the University of the Middle East Project, USA

“A just and neutral policy is needed from America in solving the Arab-Israel conflict to ensure maintenance of arab oil supply without problems. This is dictated by the failure of the military American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. A continuation of America’s biased siding with Israel will initiate more terrorism and more troubles to the ailing regimes in Middle East.”

Dr. Medhat Khafagy, Acting chief of Ibn Khaldoun Center for Developmental Studies, Egypx

“I am a Man of the Book who cares deeply about Muslims gaining their place in American Civil Society, and, thereby, to increase their respect upon the world stage. Most of what the President addressed in his was a breath of fresh air, but, at the same time, he was constrained by his domestic right-wing American Jewish Lobby, and, therefore, his comments ignored Palestine’s right to self-defense, and to admit Israel’s constant State terrorism, and Washington’s part in enabling it. Until Tel Aviv renounces these policies, peace in our mutual Holy Land cannot be achieved! Also, the decision to deliver the speech in politically repressive Egypx, and not meet with the democratic forces there, and further not to include Hamas in any Palestinian peace negotiations, is a grave error, and could, in the long run, destroy any good that will be generated.”

Geoffrey Cook, Columnist, Muslim Observer, USA

“President Obama’s mention about the Holocaust and the killing and torture of the Jews has no relation whatsoever with the Arab and Islamic world. This talk should be said in Germany, not Cairo. It seems that the President was trying to appease Israel while talking to the Muslim World. Also, he said that the Arabs should present new initiatives, as if there was no past initiatives and proposals made. Finally, we do not need to learn that the ties between Israel and the United States are unbreakable. We never asked to break these ties. All that we would like to know is that the United States will be neutral in its engagement in the peace process.”

Mohamed Zarea, General Director, Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO), Egypx

“The righteous struggle usually takes decades and even hundreds of years just for a little progress. That is what intelligent leadership recognizes. This the single greatest reason for renouncing violence excepx in extreme or compelling conditions. A great idea over time is far more powerful than any army. The Palestinians are going to take decades before they begin to live like their Israeli neighbors because of the disparity of resources. No war lasting decades will improve their quality of life. In the long struggle the Palestinians have ahead of them in the Middle East and Muslims have ahead of them in America, non violence and standing by the truth and trusting God are the best weapons of the oppressed in the modern world. That is the lesson black Americans have taught the world and that the Palestinians and the Arab world must imitate for peace to happen in the Middle East.”

Gregory Abdur Rahman, USA

“Multiple Bravos! You used ‘situation’, not the usual, completely inappropriate ‘conflict’. It’s not a war; it’s an Occupation. Same problem with ‘Peace’. These words are always used – and are highly obfuscatory. They create an image of two states, with borders and armies to defend them, of two equal sides, as in ‘Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations’. Prisoners do not negotiate with guards; they beg. These words were generated by the other side to serve their interests. Obama had earlier said, “Israel’s security is paramount”. This sharply curtails his courses of action, given domestic political forces, since it places decisions about Israel’s security in Netanyahu’s hands.”

Edward Peck, USA

“Let us exalt Obama’s message and accepx it mostly on his appeal on the Israel and Palestine relationship. He is already being criticized by the enemies of truth and the only way we can reward him for his nice words is to put them in practice. This is a golden chance that we have. Extremism has no room in Islam. Let us stress that dialogue has a room in our system.”

Issa Kirarira

“The speech was good and loud but actions are needed, will speak much louder, and will be the true reflections to the intentions of this administration. It seems that we have been electing officials that represents the interests of Israel than the interests of the people of this country and its fine citizens. Our government must digest the fact that Israel is a liability and not an asset. Jewish people have suffered a great deal but that doesn’t justify the Palestinians to suffer even worst. On the other-hand we as Muslims must make the distinction between Jewish religion, its followers, and the Zionists that stands for evil. The U.S. should stop taking sides and play the honest broker-ship to bridge the gap.”

Mohammad K. Ishwait, USA

“If at anytime during the last sixty year the international community had unilaterally appropriated California to create Israel or any other new state, the American people would never accepx the legitimacy of that state. That is not to say that the Israeli people do not now have a right to live on this land in peace free from the treat of attack and terror. They do. But statehood and sovereignty, especially when for good reasons or bad Israel imposes apartheid like practices on the displaced Palestinian people and their descendants, is a bit much to ask. I recognize that President Obama is describing a world that can be. The trick, however, is not to dream of a future that ignores the limitations imposed by an ugly and unjustifiable past.”

Vance Fort, USA

“This was a very positive speech so far well received in the “Arab streets”. However, deeds must follow. It would be a mistake to funnel all policy issues addressed by President Obama through the tunnel of the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as many Arab establishment regimes would surely push for. All issues should be addressed simultaneously with deeds, and God Willing, results will follow.”

Chedley Aouriri, USA

“America has a historic commitment to Israel. The two state solution is the only viable solution at present. Just as Obama condemned violence on the Palestinian side, he also condemned Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Qatar

“The most important part of the speech was the talk concerning Israel and Palestine. It was courageous and forthcoming. I hope he will be able to force peace on both sides according to UN Resolutions 242 and 338, as well as the Road Map to Peace. If so, he will really be a man of peace.”

Dr. Mohamed Noman Galal, Egypx

“President Obama seems to have understood that respect always has to be mutual. This will open the minds of the people if not the minds of governments (example Iran). We must see, that in the last decades the occupation with totalitarianism has to a great extent overruled the occupation with colonialism and imperialism, which are responsible for many wounds not only in the Muslim World. And Barack Obama seems to have understood that in the question of ethics double standards will always lead to hate and aggression (example Israel and Palestine). If he continues on this way he will be a great president who can lead humankind into a globalized world that is worth living in.”

Elisabeth Kiderlen, Journalist in Germany

“Obama has recognized the importance of addressing conflict through collaborative partnership. I suggest he invite respected civil society and religious leaders of Muslim countries and their American counterparts (Muslim and non-Muslim) to form an “American-Islamic Advisory Council” which would meet regularly and make recommendations to Obama about policies to address conflict and other issues and improve US-Muslim world relations. As well as serving as a problem-solving mechanism, this would empower people of the Muslim world with a real voice in addressing these issues and enable citizens of America and the Muslim world to build a
relationship of cooperation and partnership.”

Rebecca Cataldi, Program Manager of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, USA

“The speech of President Obama at Cairo University was a landmark as far as relations between the Muslim world and the United States. If his words will be followed by concrete actions the speech will certainly change the landscape of the relationship in the future. I hope that his acknowledgement of the sufferings of Muslims under colonialism will be followed by concrete approach to rectify those injustices. I am referring in particular to the situation of the Bangsamoro in South Philippines whose homeland was incorporated into the Philippine state by the United States without their consent.”

Abhoud Syed M. Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bansamoro Studies, the Philippines

“Brilliant speech! It reflected a very good understanding of the dynamics of the conflict, recognized major actors, and sympathized with the grievances of both parties to the conflict. The president?s address could be a turning point in the conflict if followed by persistent effort to solve the conflict once and for all. If Obama’s able to make real progress on this front, it will translate into real progress on other fronts, especially in the fight against terrorism and extremism.”

Dr. Abdullah Al-Faqih, Yemen

“Peaceful coexistence between Israel-Palestine cannot rise above a balance between themselves and their respective American-Arab backers. The former must have resolve and the latter the political will.”

Octa Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc., the Philippines

“Obama is the first president who suggested forthrightly that all Jewish settlement activities must end immediately so that a two-state solution can be viable. Israeli security agencies reported that Hamas in Gaza is curbing rocket firing. President Obama should proceed with action to show that when people move in the right direction they are rewarded. He should take steps to end the Israeli blocade of Gaza; encourage a Palestinian reconciliation openly so that a legitimate Palestinian delegation can negotiate a two-state solution; and lean on the Israeli government to move in the same direction. Arab governments, especially Saudi Arabia, should make public what specific steps it would take to normalize relations with Israel should a peace agreement reached.”

Dr. Mohamed Nimer, Assistant Professor at the Washington Semester Program’s School of International Service, USA

“While I am aware that he could not deal with all the issues at one time, the following topics could easily have been added in his comments: Racist political parties and media spreading Islamophobia in the West, drone attacks in Pakistan, Israeli atomic program and arsenal, and the suffering of the Palestinians, construction of Separation Wall and bombing and blockade of Gaza. We all know, that President Obama is a great orator and a genuine humanist but I have this feeling that he hesitates in denouncing Israeli political policies in order not to offend the sensibilities of some among the Jewish communities. My request to President Obama would be to be even handed and just otherwise good words would remain just that – words.”

Bashy Quraishy, Chair of ENAR Advisory Council and Chair of Jewish Muslim Platform in Brussels, Belgium

“The only question that needs an open and honest and courageous answer is how to implement President Obama’s vision of a two states solution, how to force the road map solution and to face the Zionist lobby in the Congress.”

Saoud El Mawla, Lebanon

“Obama’s speech was sober and cautious. Cautious, because he cannot take a 180 degree turn from the existing American Stand and scare those of his anti Muslim compatriots in whose minds his new policy will take some time to sink. In the same line of thinking, he cannot afford to be more critical of Israel. What he has said against Israel is already a lot more than we have ever heard from an American sitting President. Obama must be given the chance to practice what he has declared.”

Dawood Auleear, Mauritius

“I found President Obama as a very intelligent and clever well educated person. When he started talking about the Palestinians, he talked first about the suffering of the Jewish nation and the Holocaust they faced, and then followed by the suffering of the Palestinians as a nation who should have the rights to create their own state. In my point of view, President Obama wanted to tell the Jewish people and Israel that one who suffered should not let the others suffer, as the suffering of the Jewish people came from the Nazis, and not from Muslims, Arabs, or Palestinians.”

Ali AbuShahla, Gaza, Palestine

“Thank you, Mr. President, for understanding that a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a key to world peace. Alleviating the misery of the Palestinians by giving them a viable state will remove a legitimate reason for grudges against us, robbing the violent extremists of one their causes. It will make Israel safer. It will establish a new climate in which to discuss other issues. I am behind you and praying for you.”

Frances Fuller, USA

“The tone of the speech is positive and conciliatory however the Arab Israeli conflict was talked about in general terms. We have to see what concrete steps will President Obama take to insure Israeli compliance with all UN resolutions on this conflict from Resolution 242 until today.”

Ibrahim AlMugaiteeb, President of Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia

“I think the key issue in building trust with the Arab world is resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict. The American Government could have invested more efforts in solving this problem rather than in fighting wars and expanding enemies in the Arab and Muslim world. Without offering concrete proposals to address this problem it is useless to talk about democracy and human rights in the Arab world.”

Farhad Bokiev, Tajikistan

“I dare say that such a conflict is the source of all evils in the region. And the reasons for this are many: Israeli provocative actions, the extremism and wrongheadedness of Hamas and the National Palestinian Authority’s standing helpless. Sir, if Hamas is found faulty with launching rockets on Israeli towns, what about the massacres done to the Palestinians, especially in the recent events of Gaza? What about the blockade and starvation the Palestinians are suffering? What about the demolishing and havoc the Palestinians are daily witnessing? What about the detaining policies? Sir, I just need to ask: Are not those Palestinians as human as Israelis? We just want America and its President to address the flaws in the conflict and gather all parties so that both Palestinian and Israeli peoples can co-exist.”

Asmaa Sharaf El Deen, Egypx

“His rhetoric was measured and balanced but on the political aspect of issues, he failed to convince. Obama acknowledged the sufferings of the Palestinians and Israelis. But when it came to politics, he, like his predecessor, took the pro-Israeli line. Obama asks the Palestinians to abandon violence but says nothing about the Israeli violence. There was not a word about the greater Israeli bombing of Gaza in December and January when hundreds of civilians, including old women and children were killed. He says violence to resist occupation does not succeed, so why did America lead military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait? Why did they use and are still using violence in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve their aims? Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for decades and diplomacy has never worked.”

Ahmed J. Versi, Editor of The Muslim News, United Kingdom

Rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons

“I am for total elimination of any and all objects that cause massive human annihilation including nuclear weapons. As the United States has been advised by its own leaders of wisdom and foresight, it should set an example for others to follow. As long as that is not attained, the U.S. should strictly follow its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And it should forswear not using its nuclear arsenal against any other country, as well as desist from developing newer mass destruction systems.”

Dr. Siraj Islam Mufti, USA

“Obama was very clear with regard to nuclear power. He declared that every nation could have access to nuclear power as long as it abides by the appropriate treaties.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik

“Nuclear weaponry is never an asset, rather, it is a liability for security. It is likened to a war., Victory in one calls for preparation into many more.”

Octa Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc., the Philippines

Democracy

“His eloquent speech is not a general policy formulation towards the Muslim world, but extended a much needed olive branch to the Muslim world after eight years of marginalization and short-term political goals. Having said that, Mr. Obama has to show us his concrete plans to true commitment to political reforms. No longer can the U.S. turn a blind eye as the Muslim world sinks deeper and deeper into political decay. In his speech, he never promoted the building of democratic institutions and devoted little space for democracy promotion. The choice of Egypx itself, ruled since 1981 by an aging dictator in the process of grooming his son for power, is indicative of this blind pragmatism. He needs to press for good governance, rule of law and accountability.”

Dr. Mohamed Daadaoui, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Oklahoma City University, USA

“In the absence of democracy, every Arab citizen is a voiceless minority. The US must retain the policy of democracy promotion and only reform its strategies and tools. The US must not be sidetracked into doling out assistance in other areas that only serves to prolong the status quo, and disrupxs the trajectory of events that might, if unimpeded, lead to change. The longer the US half-heartedly engages on this issue, the more political capital it loses in the region, and the more extremist camps gain. It is time the US realizes the centrality of the democracy deficit to the rest of the issues President Obama enunciated in his speech.”

Dima M. Toukan, Jordan

“President Obama made a good entry to the Islamic world. but I would like to mentioned few points. First, he should have been more clear on supporting Democracy. Yes, democracy is a process, and has to be built in the country by its people. The United States needs to support democracy, and this a moral responsibility to not send a signal of support to most of the oppressive regime in Islamic world. The reason for the extremists in most of the Islamic countries is the oppressive regimes and discrimination against the people. I also think he should have been more forceful in stressing accountability and justice, especially in countries with conflict.”

Sima Samar, Chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul

“President Obama gave overall a warm and a well prepared speech. However, he chose not to address the thorny issue of human rights in the Muslim world, with the excepxion of women’s rights. This was not accepxable. He never mentioned in his speech the reality of human rights violations by governments, issues such as torture, freedom of opinion, etc which deserve at least a passing note in the 55 minute-speech delivered by the president of the largest power in the world. It is as if the current American administration decided to remove human rights from its agenda and give a free hand for each regime in the Muslim world to run its country in its own way. The President should have urged Muslim rulers to adopx more democratic measures and practices.”

Mohamed Zarea, General Director of the Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO) in Egypx

“It was nice to see Obama make democracy one of the crucial demands to all nations of the Earth. To show the nice picture of the US democracy and the beauty of American people, American foreign policy should understand and practice democracy enlightened by the way that Obama understands democracy. It is not imposing ideas or fitting other cultures in the US democracy model. Then we can make the world a “Club of Civilizations,” not “Clash of Civilizations”. Obama and the Americans have a golden opportunity to re-draw their image in the world.”

AbdulSalam Medeni Islam, Program Manager/Trainer of the National Democratic Institute for International Affaires in Iraq

“Obama’s message about democracy was addressed to so many rulers who wouldn’t or couldn’t implement it that one just shivers at the thought. How do we avoid democracy, freedom of speech and religion being overturned by a democratically-elected sectarian or dictator? Hopefully by maintaining a certain amount of economic stability, where people are happy and equal enough not to look for radical answers. “Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away”, and only the test of time proves some wrong.”

Marie-Pierre Poulain, Lawyer and Registered Counsel with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court, France

“Those who come into power, must maintain power through consent of its people. Unfortunately, this is not practiced in many Muslim countries; and these authoritarian regimes have been maintained in their status quo by active support of the United Sates. The Bush administration rhetorically acknowledged this, but without changing relationship, in any way. And, despite requests of the American Muslim community, alas President Obama did not address a word to them in his speech. This, while he was in Cairo, the capital of Egypx, home to Hosni Mubarak, the most ruthless Arab dictator who crushes opposition and elects himself unchallenged, now for three decades. When would we expect a change, from a president who came on a promise of change?”

Dr. Siraj Islam Mufti, USA

“It is true that in the Arab and Islamic world substantial shortcomings exist in democracy, good governance and human rights observance. The regional context is volatile, furthermore economic and educational development leads to sharply increasing exposure to international norms, including those relevant for human rights. Civil society actors need to be persistent in calls for improvements in human rights and not be co-opxed, but at the same time there is a need for it to interact with governmental actors in a constructive manner enabling the needed positive social to take place. Reforms and sustainable change is not something that has to be forced or imported from outside.”

Amal van Hees, The Netherlands

“Mr. Obama’s speech failed to convey the vital role American Muslims can play in materializing a new relationship between the Muslim world and America. He failed to recognize the potential of this common denominator [between America and the Muslim world] in bridge-building. His leadership remains deficient in reaching out to this powerful catalyst of change within America to be a partner in conflict resolution, constructive engagement, dialogue and diplomacy. Being the beneficiaries of democratic governance and pluralism American Muslims could be powerful proponents of these ideas that could help the Muslim world stabilize, integrate and prosper.”

Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress (MPJP), USA

“Democracy – in my opinion- is the most difficult issue to be adopxed in the Islamic world. America should put more pressure on its allies – in the Islamic world- to adopx democratic principles. This bright picture is very gloomy with regard to democracy in this part of the world.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Academic and Writer from Qatar

“Overall the speech was distinctive, pleasing and and corner stone that sets a new direction for the USA’s relationship with Islam and Muslims. However, with regard to democracy the president’s promise to promote and support democracy was not satisfying if though addressing the issue in his speech in and of itself is extremely important. The Democracy Defense Association (DDA), urges President Obama to adopx similar strategies and projects in the service of democratic transition in the Arab and Muslim world similar to those he announced when discussed economic development and opportunities. Thus, the DDA suggests that the president hold a summit on democracy and human in Mauritania (the paragon of Arab democracies) or a major Arab or Muslim country where Democracy and Human Rights stakeholders can partnership.”

Democracy Defense Association (DDA), USA

“Promoting democracy in Muslim countries demands modesty, cultural sensitivity and discretion. Setting a good example comes first. Rightly, we celebrate our political system and wish similar blessings for others. Employing U.S. government power to impose political values is folly. We can clearly state those values: rule of law, justice, consent of the governed, broad political participation and rulers who are both tolerant and accountable. We can welcome movement toward those goals with political and, if needed, economic support. But change will last only when it emerges from voluntary choice in the framework of each country’s culture and history.”

David Mack, Middle East Institute Scholar and former U.S. Ambassador, USA

“I agree with him he can’t and should not impose the American way of governing on other countries, but he can not ignore the international law and humanitarian laws, which all of this countries has signed and agreed on long time ago. I know and I understand it’s time for peace and time for security, but the security of your country doesn’t come only from making this kind of regimes (kings from all kinds) happy but as well by supporting these societies to live in decency. By making external troubles and wars they shatter the focus off the main and the core problem, it’s all about power and power corrupxion. In every speech and every meeting, in every discussion and every letter, we should remind ourselves, and these regimes of this law. It’s serious time, and in such a time, hard decisions should be made.”

Maan Abdul Salam, Etana Press, Syria

“I have immense appreciation for the speech of President Barack Obama delivered. The world needs such enlightened personalities for the restoration of peace and moderation. His emphasis on democracy is the dire need of our time. In my opinion in an undemocratic society the pent up passions of people erupx in the form of terrorism and extremism. In the light of Sura Shura( The Consultation) of the holy Quran, it is my considered opinion that Islam is a democratic religion and the contention of President Obama about the spread of democracy in the world is our faith and is in consonance with Islamic political thought. The issues of Kashmir and the Middle East can also be resolved democratically. Let us all sincerely join together for the promotion of democracy as suggested by President Barack Obama. It is not an American agenda; it is an Islamic mantra.”

Dr. Maqsood Jafri, USA

“While I appreciate President Obama’s speech about the Democracy and his emphasis on global values, I would like to still express my great concern of the support of the US to the non-democratic government in the region. The U.S. should take a very clear stand in dealing with such governments. We in the Gulf states do not feel ourselves as human being with equal rights to the ruling families; they have countless privileges over the rest of us; they have political, financial, social, administrative and many other privileges which demolish the concepx of equality of human beings called for in the international conventions.”

Ahmed Mansoor, United Arab Emirates

“Public debates should be encouraged on subjects such as Islam and democracy. Most importantly a culture should be created to cultivate accountability and transparency in government policies. The US should take lead in cultivating this culture by liberating itself of lobby groups and by opening an independent fresh enquiry into 9/11 tragic events. This will definitely enhance Muslim faith in Obama administration. This is, as the President has decorated, would be in accordance to both the Qur’anic guidance as well as modern democratic principles. I wrote “My expectations of Obama: between hope and fear” (Today’s Zaman, November 13, 2008) immediately after the election of Barack Obama. After over four months in power, I would like to say, I am now more hopeful about Obama presidency.”

Abdullah al-Ahsan, Professor in the Department of History and Civilization at the International Islamic University in Malaysia

“Democracy can never be fitted in its entirety into Islam and the reverse is true. But both can learn from each other.”

Octa Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc., the Philippines

Religious freedom

“President Obama highlighted the position of Islam towards religious freedom through the principle of tolerance, which strengthens religious diversity, which must upheld for non-Muslim minority in Muslim Countries. Meanwhile, we notice that he did not upheld on the same level the rights of the Muslim Minority in non-Muslim countries for example European countries practice a very discriminatory policy against Muslim minority in their countries (Holland, Denmark, Belgium, France etc.) and even some states in United States. These countries adopxed a policy of restrictions and distrust toward Muslim even though he is a citizen of that country. Therefore, we think that religious diversity must uphold universally.”

Dr. Badria Al-Awadhi, Director of the Arab Regional Center for Environmental Law (ARCEL), Kuwait

“Despite some unfortunate incidents, a majority of Muslims are very tolerant, perhaps unbeknown to President Obama. The sectarian killings in Iraq were instigated through the colonialist policy of divide and rule after invasion, since Iraqis, Shias and Sunnis, intermarried and lived together amiably throughout their history. Also contrary to President Obama’s commitment, American Muslims are still handicapped in fulfilling their obligation of Zakat since most Islamic charities are still banned and closed. A clear case is that of the Holy Land Foundation with leaders recently given stiff sentences of 60 years in prison, because they sent charities to the starving Palestinians where Hamas rules. And this was before the time when Hamas was declared “a terrorist organization.” We hope President Obama will look into this case objectively, without any bias.”

Dr. Siraj Islam Mufti, USA

“Religious freedom is one of Islam’s core values. Mr. Obama praised Islamic tolerance, called for cooperation between all religions, and supported religious dialogue.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Academic and Writer from Qatar

“President Obama’s speech may not change the situation on the ground quickly but it is a good start. President Obama’s speech motivated the people of faiths to re-engage in dialogue and understanding of each other. Today, we are celebrating president Obama’s speech of hope and peace.”

Islamic Supreme Council of Canada (ISCC)

“President Obama emphasized and built upon the idea of co-existence and challenged fellow humans to think in those terms. It is a change he has talked about, and has now delivered to the world wide audience who is ready to absorb it. God wants his creation to learn to accepx the otherness of other and respect the uniqueness bestowed upon each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge to pave the way for peaceful co-existence. That is indeed God?s will and the message from Zarathustra, Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Mahavir, Jesus, Mohammad, Nanak, Bahaullah and many a spiritual masters in Native American, African and other traditions.”

Mike Ghouse, Foundation for Pluralism, USA

“Religious freedoms cannot also rise above the qualitative teaching of theory and practice by its respective religious functionaries.”

Octa Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc., the Philippines

Women’s rights

“I urge you to review what your counselors tell you about Islam. I would like to say that not all Muslims believe that “hijab” is an Islamic duty at all. I agree and thank you for assuring religious freedom, especially for woman who have really suffered for many generation. But once again, head covering has been a very debatable issue for 30 years now. I know that you have a number of committees of many counselors and organizations that have great Muslim expertise. I agree with you that women should have the right to have a head cover but I believe that no one has right to say “Islam is hijab;” in fact, I strongly disagree with that assertion. I hope you do not listen to just one side about this issue. I trust in your ability in judging issues evenhandedly.”

Sameh Hasan, Professor of the Arabic language and Culture at Yale University, USA

“Thank you for making this one of the top priorities to address in the Muslim world. Please consider using the teachings of Islam (not as interpreted by chauvinist men) to turn the too many ignorant people’s back to their teachings of equality and justice for all, including women.”

Dr. Najma M. Adam, USA

“As a french citizen quite attached to the laic education for historical reasons, I have been uncertain about the hijab at school. The french centralized state and education, the painful parting of the state and the church as late as 1905, did bring a measure of equality and opportunity to women in France. However, I agree that the main issue is the women’s right to education, with or without a veil, and moreover that the life of women should be their choice.”

Marie-Pierre Poulain, Lawyer and Registered Counsel with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court, France

“I applaud President Obama for advocacy of women’s rights. Much remains to be worked in the Muslim countries, especially in the area of education. Women, as he said, must not be made to make the same choices, and most Muslim women would prefer to live their traditional roles. But the choice should be theirs. Education should be of paramount importance.”

Dr. Siraj Islam Mufti, USA

“With regard to Women`s rights, Obama offered assistance to all countries to help women`s programs directed to enhance women`s rights and overcome their problems. Islamic dress is not a problem on the path to woman to have a role in her country. Obama gave examples of Turkey, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where women reached the top of the political administration.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Academic and Writer from Qatar

Economic development and opportunity

“Your speech in Cairo a successful attempx to reopen the door that stands between the West and the Muslim world. Unfortunately, on the same day of your speech and in the days that followed, citizens of several Member States of the European Union (EU) slammed this same door straight in the face of the Muslim world by voting for rightwing parties to take seats in the EU parliament. These rightwing parties have fiercely campaigned and promised their voters to forever prevent Turkey as a Muslim country to join the EU and to stop Muslim immigration to the European continent. Perhaps it is time that you help the Europeans reconsider their exclusivist approach vis-à-vis the Muslim world and instead reach out the same way you did in you masterful and eloquent speech.”

Jonathan H. van Melle, intern for the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Netherlands

“In the 21st century, because of a lot of factors, the Islamic world will face a lot of huge challenges. If it is not prepared to face them in an intelligent way, then the extremist forces would grew and represent a real threat not only to the Islamic countries, but also to the United States. That’s why the projects of President Obama relative to economic development are welcome. All projects concerning the youth are good things and will be welcome by this clientele. Also, by encouraging the exchange between youth from America and those of Muslim world, these groups will come to know each other well.”

Aziz Enhaili, Morocco

“President’s Obama vision and focus on economic development for Muslim World is the most effective way to face the differences between cultures and to have mutual interests and mutual respect and to launch a ” new beginning in U.S.- Muslim relations. The fundamental message in President’s Obama speech was a call for partnership, make us very hopeful to have active and close cooperation in U.S.- Muslim relations. I call on President Obama to open direct channels with the Peoples and to strength cooperation between the Egypxian and American civil society organizations.”

Anwar Esmat El-Sadat, Egypx

“A boost in the economies of impoverished Islamic States, home to over one billion people, is desperately needed to raise the standard of living so as their citizens could afford to buy or use high-valued goods produced in America such as cars, jets, medical equipments, etc. This will aid in the recovery of the American economy in the long run. The encouragement of American multinational companies is needed to invest in these states.”

Dr. Medhat Khafagy, Acting Chief of Ibn Khaldoun Center for Developmental Studies, Egypx

“On the issue of economic and development Obama was very generous. He declared a joint project between American businessmen and their counterparts in the Islamic countries. He also announced a fund to support development and technology researches in Islamic or majority Islamic countries. I believe that Obama’s speech was one of the best in American history.”

Dr. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Academic and Writer from Qatar

“The idea put forward by President Barack Obama of creating “a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries” is indeed laudable. The partnering should not be limited in Muslim-majority countries but should include Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries. In the case of the Bangsamoro in South of Philippines the development of their communities has to be driven by Bangsamoro entrepreneurship, not by programs of government and aid agencies, to be sustainable.”

Abhoud Syed M. Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, the Philippines

“Placing economic development and opportunity before people empowerment, their peace and order situation is assured are likened to placing the cart before the horse. It will only benefit the elite and perpetuate the status quo.”

Octa Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc., the Philippines

“We wholly concur that investment in education and technology, providing employment opportunities, and facilitating enterprise, are economic policies no state can ignore if it desires for its population decent living standards and a high quality of life. We welcome the emphasis on economic development and the role the US will endeavour to play in supporting stable economic growth in these regions. As well as the opportunity that online networks will provide in breaking down stereotypes and enabling better interaction between Americans and Muslims. These networks will serve an important function for Americans, as much as for Muslims, as we work to eradicate the paradigms of those that can only speak in languages of hostility, enmity and difference.”

ENGAGE, United Kingdom

“The US, in the grip of its worst economic crisis, has to be smart and trade with the Muslims!”

Hayat Diyen, Professor of English at Universite Mohamed Premier, Morocco

“President Obama’s eloquent remarks in Cairo constitute a watershed in U.S. relations with the Arab and Muslim world. The President went as far as any American President can possibly go, at this stage of history, in any public remarks. His speech was sufficiently explicit, even if it fell short of the detail that many would have liked to see, to signal to all that the United States has made a major change in its foreign policy. Remember that President Obama was not only addressing the Muslim world: he was also addressing Americans back home. Unless he can rally U.S. domestic support for this dramatic alteration in American foreign policy, it will go nowhere. So far, the signs are encouraging, both abroad and at home. Parameters of understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have changed in major ways in the United States over the past few years, and President Obama now has more political space within which to maneuver than any U.S. President since at least 1967. Both Muslim and non-Islamic states in the region and elsewhere now need to respond dramatically to the enormous courage that President Obama has shown. For it is only with a new attitude by all that changes will occur on the ground. Godspeed to everyone.”

Antony T. Sullivan, Vice Chair, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

 

Disclaimer: These views and opinions reflect those of their authors, and not necessarily those of CSID or its board of directors.

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