Reactions to Obama’s Speech

The USG Open Source Center translates reports about the reaction of the general public to Obama’s speech in Cairo.

Al-Jazirah, Al-Arabiyah Highlight, Carry Reactions to Obama’s Cairo Speech
Middle East — OSC Summary
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Document Type: OSC Summary

. . . From 1306-1322 GMT, Al-Jazirah conducts a live satellite interview with its Cairo bureau chief Husayn Abd-al-Ghani, who in turn interviews Mustafa al-Fiqi, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Egyptian People’s Assembly, and Amin Iskandar, a leading figure in the Arab Dignity Party, which is under establishment.

On the reasons why he turned down an invitation to attend President Obama’s speech, Iskandar explains: “First, the US policy in the Arab region is biased toward Israel. Second, the United States occupied Iraq and divided its people. Third, it created and supported despotic regimes in the region.”

Al-Fiqi argues that Islander’s “boycott was a bad decision,” especially since a new US President “came after the dark era of his successor,” adding that President Obama’s “rhetoric and mindset are completely different from those of former US President George Bush.” Commenting on President Obama’s rhetoric, Al-Fiqi says that President Obama “tried to concentrate on common grounds between the Muslim world and the United States, as opposed to what used to happen in the past when the focus was placed on points of difference and provocative terms like Islamic terrorism.” However, Al-Fiqi adds: “I cannot say that this speech reflects a radical change in the US foreign policy.”

Cont’d (click below or on “comments”)

Iskandar notes that President Obama did not address “the root cause” of any problem, adding that Obama talked about the Holocaust but “did not explain why the Arabs have to pay the price of this Holocaust in Palestine.” Iskandar dismisses as “wrong” President Obama’s remarks about religious minorities in the Arab world, particularly the Copts in Egypt, and notes that “President Obama knows that the Americans, not the Iraqis, are the ones who ignited sectarian and ethnic divisions in Iraq.”

Asked why the President did not talk about Arab regimes and governments, Al-Fiqi says that the President wished to avoid commenting on “differences between the United States and Arab regimes.” . . .

At 1606 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviews Husayn Abd-al-Ghani to summarize reactions of different Egyptian officials. He says that the senior Al-Azhar clerics, as well as the Egyptian mufti, praised President Obama’s speech that lauded the achievements of the Islamic civilization. In reference to the President Obama’s remark about minorities, Abd-al-Ghani notes that Pope Shenouda III made no comment but said that “he was pleased with President Obama’s statement that power has failed in Iraq since it is not everything.”
. . .
At 1804 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviews Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of Organization of the Islamic conference, over the phone from Cairo.
Asked whether the US President’s speech managed to cure “the mistrust” between the United States and the Muslim world, Ihsanoglu says President Obama’s speech was “positive” and that it included all elements Obama previously talked about in Ankara and elsewhere.

Asked whether this speech can change the Arab and Muslim attitude from the United States, Ihsanoglu says that “this speech is meant to win the hearts and minds of the public opinion in the Muslim world.” He adds that since President Obama took office, “there has been positive progression in the Muslim world toward the United States, thanks to President Obama’s charisma and statements.” He goes on to say that “President Obama is presenting a new image of the United States that is different from the image presented by the former US administration.”

Asked about a new US peace plan or initiative to resuscitate the Middle East peace process, Ihsanoglu notes that President Obama’s speech contained “positive elements” when he talked about the suffering of the Palestinians and Jerusalem, adding that “we should build on these elements, develop them, and should not squander this chance.”

At 1830 GMT, the channel dedicated its daily “Behind the News” talk show to the democracy and human rights related aspects of the President’s speech.

In introducing the episode, Layla al-Shaykhali says: “Today’s episode will discuss the America’s new approach to democracy and human rights in light of what US President Barack Obama said in his speech today. Our episode will address two questions: first, will the Obama administration abandon calls for democratic change in the Arab and Muslim worlds? And how will this administration address human rights violations in Arab countries that are allied with Washington.”

A video report notes that “the US President’s decision to deliver his speech in Cairo has drawn reservations from many in the United States who are concerned for human rights and democracy due to what they feel is his direct blessing of a regime they see as dictator.” President Obama is shown saying: “I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.”

Commenting, Zahir Muhammad of Amnesty International is shown saying that Obama “could have made some opaque references to the exploitation by many Arab countries of security matters as an excuse to suffocate freedom of speech.” In closing, the report speaks of “expectations that are unlikely to be met under the new US Government, hence boosting the credibility of the option that democratic and human rights values cannot be imported or exported and must be snatched internally.”
The program hosts Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Democracy Program at Center for Strategic and International Studies, via satellite from Washington; and Yasir al-Za’atirah, Jordanian writer and political analyst, via satellite from Amman.

Explaining differences between Presidents Bush and Obama’s democratization policies, Alterman says that “while the Bush administration gave the impression that it can impose democracy and force it on people, what we heard in President Obama’s speech was entirely different.”

He adds: “President Obama was careful not to say anything concerning what the United States plans on doing with respect to groups that win in elections and have religious aspirations — HAMAS, for example, could play a responsible role. He did not say that America will not deal with or recognize HAMAS, but he challenged it to raise to the level of its responsibilities to society and to behave in a particular way toward Israel and prior obligations, but he did not close the door to the engagement of Islamic groups.”

Alterman goes on to say that the President was trying to “reshape Muslim opinions on the United States and to bring America to view and treat Muslims worldwide differently,” and he describes the Cairo speech as “more intellectually ambitious and emotionally toned down than I anticipated.”

On whether he detected “soft and emotional diplomacy” in the speech, Al-Za’atirah says: “Obama was selling the Muslims sentiments even though they see something completely different on the ground. As for the issue of democracy, his choice of Saudi Arabia and then Egypt, and his complete disregard for the issue of reforms in the two countries, indicates that he will remain loyal to the policies adopted by his predecessor George Bush in his second term.” He notes that although pro-reform pressures during President Bush’s first term led to some electoral movement in the Arab world, “the Americans later discovered that they can use the sword of democracy to obtain plenty of concessions on central issues that were of interest to George Bush in light of his religious mentality in dealing with issues related to the Hebrew state.”

Asked if he is alluding to a “deal by which the democracy issue is put on hold in return for movement on other hot issues,” Al-Za’atirah says: “This is what happened in the days of George bush, and I think this is what will happen under Obama. The issues of reform and democracy will remain nothing more than a sword used for blackmail purposes.” He speaks of how Bush used this sword to “force major and central Arab countries to legitimize the occupation” of Iraq and “cover up the murder of (late Palestinian President) Yasir Arafat,” and adds: “Today, Obama wants to dig himself out of the holes that Bush left behind, not to mention the global financial crisis, and is therefore keen on helping these so-called moderate regimes, which in turn cannot help the United States if they are pressured on reforms.”

Told that many in the Arab world “expected a clearer and firmer position in support of demands for political reform in the Arab world,” Alterman says that the speech was not entirely emotional and was “an attempt to demonstrate patience, perseverance, and an understanding of the depth of these crises, and he did not try to inspire people, unlike Bush, who thought he could inspire the Muslim world, but could not — he used to tell them what their aspirations should be. Today’s speech is meant to send the message that we understand and are open, and instead of cutting off those who we do not understand and who do not understand us, we will talk to them.”

On Obama’s “soft diplomacy,” Al-Za’atirah says: “He can try to sell this soft diplomacy to the masses, but in reality, when dealing with regimes, it is an extortionist diplomacy and nothing else, and I believe that if these regimes — the ones that Obama wants to involve in major issues in order to overcome the dilemmas that Bush left behind in the Palestinian, Lebanese, Afghan, Pakistan, and Iraqi issues — do not pay the price requested, then he will use the sword of extortion the same way George Bush used it in the past. When he said that no nation can impose values on another, well, who said that the Arab and Muslim nation rejects the values of democracy? It is the regimes that reject these values, and he should have addressed the regimes, but he did not because he wants to rally these regimes for his upcoming battles. The Arab and Muslim public are no longer interested in him. He thinks that he can win the Arab street over with some sweet talk, but this is nonsense. He thinks he can win the Arab and Muslim street over by talking about the two-state solution or the dismantlement of some settlements, but the Arab and Muslim street believe this solution is a conspiracy meant to liquidate the Palestinian cause, not resolve it.”

Asked to explain opinions that do not expect changes in US policy, Al-Za’atirah maintains that the United States “will not abandon its imperialist sprit under Obama, for it is a country that seeks to preserve its major interests.” He dismisses the significance of Obama’s action on Guantanamo and reiterates that the United States will ask Arab countries to help it resolve the Iraqi, Palestinian, Afghan, Somali, and Sudanese issues in return for “overlooking the issue of democracy.”

He adds: “On the HAMAS issue, for example, he wants it to honor the International Quartet’s conditions and hence contradict the opinions of those who elected it. Those who elected HAMAS did so on the grounds that it is pro-resistance and refuses to recognize the Zionist entity, and now he is telling it to recognize this entity and break its promises to Palestinian voters.”

Al-Jazirah also dedicates the first 40 minutes of its 2000 GMT “Today’s Harvest” newscast to the Obama speech.

It leads the newscast with the following report: “US President Barack Obama has said that he is trying to establish new relations between America and the Muslim world following the strained relations of past years. In a speech dubbed historic, Obama added that what binds the two sides as human beings is greater than the forces trying to separate them, and he called for seeking common grounds between the two sides.”

Immediately afterward, Al-Jazirah carries a new video report focusing on the President’s remarks on Islam and Muslims.

In the report, President Obama is shown saying: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

The report states: “Obama’s speech conveyed positions that are hard to imagine coming from Bush, especially if they are translated into actions. The speech dealt with Islam as a religion, and with Muslims are followers of this religion, as well as the issue of Muslims in the West. For Obama to say that his responsibility as US President is to fight negative stereotypes surrounding Islam draws positive responses from some Muslims, and it is talk that Muslims never heard from Bush. This is as far as Islam as a religion, but as far as Muslims in general. Obama admitted the Western colonialism’s responsible for some of the current crisis because it deprived many Muslims of certain opportunities.”

It notes Obama’s defense of the freedom of worship of Muslims in the United States and his calls on Muslims to counter the prevailing impression that the United States is an interest-driven empire.

After the report, the channel hosts in its studio “Islamic thinker” Dr Muhammad al-Ahmari.

Asked whether President Obama “tried to address the causes of tension in US relations with the Islamic world,” Al-Ahmari says: “Before his rise to power — before the other (Democratic) party came to power — there was a call for changing the discourse used with the Islamic world. This means that the discourse should include some praise and recognition so that they (Americans) can, after some time, resolve their problems by involving Muslims and getting them to engage each other. A similar thing happened in the case of Afghanistan in the past. The Arabs and Muslims helped a lot in that regard. They now need to use soft language in addressing the Islamic world so that they it will take part with them in resolving problems, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Answering a question on whether Obama is seeking a “new coalition with the Islamic world” to deal with what is happening in Iran and Afghanistan, Al-Ahmari says: “There is no doubt about this. This alliance is now clear and known. He also resorted to praise.” He adds: “This praise satisfies people, however, the end result is most probably not in their interest.”

Responding to a question on how Arabs can benefit from US attempts to forge a “new coalition” in the region, Al-Ahmari says: “Arab governments make no policies. Policies are usually set outside these countries and then exported to them, and they are ready to accept them. There is no capability of making any policies in our countries.”

Asked whether the Arabs and Muslims will give the United States a chance to achieve this goal in return for a “just and honorable” solution to the Palestine question, Al-Ahmari says: “The governments have given more than they have. The problem lies with the peoples. Thus, the speech was addressed to the peoples, because they were harmed, can have an impact, and have not given concessions.”

Following the interview, at 2012 GMT, Al-Jazirah shows President Obama saying: “The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist. At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

At 2014 GMT, the channel hosts in its studio Usamah Hamdan, representative of the HAMAS Movement in Lebanon.

Asked if he agrees that the speech “represents a noticeable change,” Hamdan says: “In my view, the only reason we can describe it as historic is the fact that it was delivered at a certain date and nothing more! This speech uses a different rhetoric and sweet words, but there is no change to the US foreign policy. Likewise, there is no change to the stance toward Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian rights. It is true that Obama did not refer to the resistance as terrorism, but this is not a crucial change.”

Hamdan adds: “I think we have to look at what lies beyond this speech. Obama is trying to restore the United States’ image, which was torn apart by former US President George Bush’s policy. Therefore, he has to use a soft language. I am recalling (changes thought). Even the Koranic verses he tried to use, such as ‘fear Allah and (always) say a word directed to the Right’. Afterwards, he talks about Israel’s right to exist, but he does not talk about the rights of the Palestinian people as one basket and an integral package, particularly when it has to do with the rights of the Palestinian people to reclaiming their homeland and holy sites, as well as their right to return to their land. He talks about the unjustifiable killing of people, but what about the civilians killed at the hands of his troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about those killed by Israel in Palestine?”

Asked about Obama’s remarks on “the suffering of the Palestinians over six decades,” and his remarks on the two-state solution, Hamdan says: “We have heard about the two states since the launch of the settlement process. This is not new. As for understanding the suffering of the Palestinians, this is not a new issue either. There are dozens of international resolutions that successive US administrations contributed to passing. Yet, this has never had any effect on the ground. I think that we should not stop at the layout of the speech. Rather, we have to dig deep into the content. The content presents nothing new.”
Commenting on Obama’s reference to HAMAS “as an important part of the Palestinian people,” Hamdan says: “Using descriptive terms does not mean changing the policy. Everyone knows that HAMAS is part of the Palestinian people, that it won the elections, and that it enjoys constitutional and democratic legitimacy. What about the stance of the US Administration toward HAMAS? He did not delineate this stance. Also what about the stance of the US Administration toward the Palestinian rights? He did not delineate this stance either. He did not make a specific stance in favor of the Palestinian rights. I think that avoiding the word ‘terrorism’ in his speech bears implications relating to the speech’s goals. After all, he is trying to restore the image of the United States.”

At 2018 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviews Nimr Hammad, adviser to the PA president on political affairs, via satellite from Ramallah.

Asked whether what came in the speech with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “fulfills the PA’s demands, “Hammad says: “First of all, let me say that the speech tackled a host of issues. He discussed more than eight issues. He tackled the Palestinian issue, which is a central cause for the Arab nation and Islamic world. He underscored the suffering of the Palestinian people, both Muslims and Christians, over the past 60 years — they lived as refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, and the neighboring countries. He also said that all settlement activities are illegitimate and unacceptable. He spoke about the necessity of the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying that this is in the interest of the United States and the world. In general, what came in his speech with regard to the Palestinian issue is important. At the same time, he said: We should not expect change to take place overnight. The US Administration has made a good beginning with regard to the Palestinian issue, the Arabs, and the Islamic world. This policy has angered the extremist pro-Israel lobby, whose positions are quite clear. Some of those who criticize, whether wittingly or unwittingly, the clear speech of President Obama are siding with the pro-Israel lobby.”

Hammad adds: “I believe that there is a new approach and a new US policy. I do not say that this is being done for our sake. Obama is not an Arab or Palestinian leader; he is a US President who seeks to achieve the US interests. However, there is a chance now for serving our interests through the new approach of the Obama administration.”

At 2022 GMT, Al-Jazirah carries a three-minute live telephone interview with Yitzhaq Livanon, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, from Tel Aviv. At 2036 GMT, it carries a four-minute live satellite interview with Bradley Blakeman, an adviser to former US President George Bush, from Washington. Al-Arabiyah Between 1130 GMT and 1900 GMT, Al-Arabiyah is observed to continue its special coverage of US President Obama’s speech at the Cairo University, dedicating its first 10 to 15 minutes of its evening newscasts to carrying reports on and excerpts from the speech on the US-Muslim relations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Iranian nuclear file. it also carries several live and recorded interviews with a number of Arab, Iranian, and Islamic figures reacting to Obama’s speech and dedicates a 45-minute long talk show to discussing the significance of Obama’s speech to the Muslim world.

Al-Arabiyah TV leads its evening newscasts with the following announcer-read report: “From the Cairo University today, US President Barack Obama today made the speech he had promised to give to the Muslim world during his election campaign. Obama started by saluting the audience in Arabic, and the audience have given him several rounds of applause. During his speech, Obama cited several Koranic verses, attaching importance to the values of the Islamic religion, its tolerance, and equality among human beings. The US President also hoped there will be a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim world on the basis of common interests and mutual respect.”

The channel shows Obama giving the speech at the Cairo University and saying: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know that media outlets have spoken of this speech, but chages cannot take place quickly, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts.”

Al-Arabiyah’s report above is followed by a repeat of earlier Palestinian, Iranian, and other reactions to Obama’s speech as follows:

— Dr Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO Negotiations Department, is shown saying: “I believe that Obama’s speech at the Cairo University is a historic one as it is the first Western attempt to define relationship with the Arabs and Muslims, and we should take advantage of this.” Erekat questions what Obama will do when Netanyahu fails to stop settlement activity or accept the two-state solution, adding that Obama’s speech needs to be coupled with actions on the ground.

Erekat adds: “I believe that Obama’s speech at the Cairo University is a historic one as it is the first Western attempt to define relationship with the Arabs and Muslims, and we should take advantage of this.” Erekat questions what Obama will do when Netanyahu fails to stop settlement activity or accept the two-state solution, adding that Obama’s speech needs to be coupled with actions on the ground.

— Saudi Islamic preacher Shaykh Ayid al-Qarni is shown welcoming Obama’s speech which he says “is the greatest speech I have ever heard from a Western ruler at this stage” and “should be taken in good faith.” Al-Qarni notes that Obama quoted the Koran several times in his speech, which is a positive sign, as he put it.

— Mohammad Shari’ati, adviser to former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, is shown commenting on Obama’s speech. He says that what Obama said is “below the expectations of the region and far from reclaiming the Palestinian rights despite the fact that HAMAS was realistic in proposing a truce with Israel.”

At 1147 GMT, Al-Arabiyah highlights Obama’s remarks on the Iranian nuclear file, citing him as saying that the United States “seeks to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Immediately afterward, the channel carries a nine-minute live satellite interview with Mohammad Shar’iati to comment on Obama’s remarks. Shari’ati says that “Obama succeeded at dealing with the Iranian issues.” He goes on to say that there is “a change in the US rhetoric and policies,” and that “Iran can turn a blind eye to the past provided that what happened in the past is not repeated in the future.”

On nuclear arms race in the region, Shari’ati commends Obama because he referred to nuclear arms race as “banned and should be addressed in accordance with nonproliferation treaties, especially because Iran has always based its policy since forme President Khatami’s era on this principle; namely, that we reject nuclear arms race in the region and worldwide.”

Asked on Obama’s address to the Muslim world, Shari’ati says the Koranic verses Obama referred to are “crucial and essential in dealing with others” in terms of “renouncing extremism.” He goes on to say that Obama’s speech was “relatively successive, but, as he said, speeches do not change institutional policies governing the United States. Hence, we are cautiously optimistic about his speech.” He later consideres Obama’s speech as “below the expectations of the region and far from reclaiming the Palestinian rights despite the fact that HAMAS was realistic in proposing a truce with Israel.”

At 1201 GMT, the channel interviews live via telephone Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa, from Cairo. Musa says: “The speech provides a new approach, but it does not amount to an initiative or a proposed policy.” However, Musa commends Obama’s remarks on the Palestinian issue in general, which he says prove “there is a new, balanced approach that is different from the one we saw from the previous US Administration.”

On relations between the United States and the Muslim world, Musa says that President Obama stressed that “there will be no clashes with Islam,” adding that “President Obama clearly wants to achieve reconciliation, understanding, and cooperation.”

Musa notes that what is new about this US Administration is that “US President Obama understands that Muslims have many views, demands, and hopes. What is new about him is that he is understanding and can deal with Islamic and Arab aspirations.”

Asked whether he believes the new US Administration is capable of exerting pressure on Israel, Musa says: “The determination I have seen in President Barack Obama makes me reassured that Washington now has something new, balanced, and it is capable of taking action and making positive, necessary changes.”

At 1209 GMT, Al-Arabiyah shows Obama speaking on US withdrawal from Iraq and saying: “Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave I r aq to I raqis. I h ave made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012.”

Immediately afterward, the channel moves to its correspondent in Iraq Faris al-Mahdawi, from Baghdad, to report Iraqi reactions to Obama’s speech. Al-Mahdawi says that “many Iraqis closely watched Obama’s speech to the Arab and Muslim worlds, particularly when he spoke about the Iraqi issue and the US withdrawal by 2012.”Al-Mahdawi later interviews a number of Iraqi citizens on the street to comment on Obama’s remarks. One Iraqi citizen is shown saying that Obama’s speech “is theoretically good and represents a change in the US policy, which over the past two decades has been a policy of colonialism and hegemony. In this speech, Obama wanted to polish the US image among Arabs and Muslims.” Asked whether the new US policy is completely different from the previous ones, he says: “Should at least 10 percent of Obama’s speech be put into action, this will mark a new chapter in the US-Muslim relations.” He goes on to say that what is different now is that “it is Obama who is reaching out to Arabs and Muslims.” On the US withdrawal from Iraq, the same Iraqi citizen hopes that both the Iraqi and US sides will commit
themselves to the articles of the agreement.

At 1307 GMT, the channel interviews live via telephone Jordanian political analyst Fahd al-Khaytan, who notes that Obama’s speech marks “a historic change in the US political discourse that can be built on to establish new relations between the United States and the Muslim world.” He adds that “the position Obama announced today about the Muslim world is not separable from a new vision he presented on the US image, not only in terms of US relations with the Muslim world but also with the entire countries of the world.”

At 1314 GMT, Al-Arabiyah interviews live via telephone Mohammad Salih Sadiqyan, from the Arab Center for Iranian Studies, in Tehran, who notes that “The speeches Obama has made since he took power have been generally welcomed in Iran, but the Iranians believe that these speeches are not enough to restore normal relations between Tehran and Washington.” He notes that “the Iranians expect more positive and practical steps in terms of bilateral relations.”

At 1322 GMT, the channel carries a three-minute video report showing unidentified Egyptian citizens commenting on Obama’s speech. One Egyptian man is shown saying: “The man (Obama) is coming to extend his hands for reconciliation between the Arab world and the United States.” He adds: “He wants everybody to claim their own rights. We Muslims are accused of being terrorists. He came to see whether this is true or not, and so he came to a major Arab country, Egypt.”

Another Egyptian man says that “all the points Obama raised during his inaugural speech were very important. Anyone who knows some politics will realize that this man really wants to mend ties with the peoples, not the governments.”

A third Egyptian man says that Obama “seeks to unite the different parties.” A fourth man notes that “the speech was very nice and comprehensive. The President did not leave out anything. He said everything.” He later hopes that all what Obama said will be put into action.

A fifth Egyptian man says: “President Bush caused tension with the entire world, but the new president wants peace, not wars, because wars mean losses. Bush had inflicted heavy losses on America. Obama is trying to fix things.” A sixth Egyptian man expresses optimism about Obama’s era and hopes that he “will do good to Arabs and the entire world.”

At 1405 GMT, Al-Arabiyah interviews live via satellite Palestinian Minister of Labor Ahmad Majdalani, from Ramallah. Majdalani says: “We believe that President Obama wants to turn over a new chapter in the US-Arab-Islamic relations. President Obama realizes the importance of the Palestinian issue as a key to security, stability, and peace in the region, and as a basis for good relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds.” Between 1705 GMT and 1757 GMT, Al-Arabiyah carries a rerun of the full speech delivered by President Obama with Arabic voiceover translation.

Ihsanoglu

At 1905 GMT, Al-Arabiyah carries a new episode of its weekly talk show “In Plain Arabic,” moderated by Giselle Khuri. The program carries a recorded interview with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference, OIC, from Cairo, to comment on Obama’s speech at the Cairo University, relations between Muslims and the United States, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and other issues.
Ihsanoglu starts by saying: “America should mend relations with the Muslim world because the balance of power is shifting from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia, and this shift is the first in history since the Industrial Revolution.”

Ihsanoglu goes on to say: “Obama today repeated a statement he said at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara. He said that America is not, and will not be, at war with Islam. In other words, he is using a new language. It is the first time we see a US President speaking in such a constructive spirit in a bid to build several bridges with the Muslim world by giving role models from his own personality, his family, or his country.”

He adds: “Obama is trying to improve the US image that has been tarnished over the recent years. He said at the beginning of his speech: We are not a new imperialist power. America, however, has become an imperialist power and he wants to change this image. Hence, he says that he lived in certain conditions when he was young and any young person can come to the United States and do what he did, and these are the values he is calling for.”

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