In March 2007 I wrote that “given Obama’s politics, it will not be hard to present him internationally as someone who understands Islam and Muslims, and thus will be able to smooth over the hostility between the Islamic world and the West — our first Muslim President.” By that I meant, as is clear from the rest of the article, not that Obama is a Muslim, but that he would be our first Muslim President the way Bill Clinton was our first black President — not in any real sense, but in the sense of having (in the perception of his supporters) some unique affinity, some bond, some kinship.
In any case, in the months since then, as all the rumors have swirled around about Obama’s being secretly a Muslim — rumors I do not credit in the slightest — it has indeed become clear that this is just how Obama is being presented, and how he is being perceived in the Islamic world: as someone with a unique understanding of Islam and Muslims, such that only he can pave the path to peace.
But the path he would pave, of course, would just be the old tired well-trodden one of Carterian appeasement.
In “Obama’s appeal in the Muslim world: An Arab Muslim foresees a possible new era of positive US leadership,” Yasser Khalil in the Christian Science Monitor (June 13) notes the enthusiasm Muslims around the world are feeling for Obama, and how he would “talk” to America’s “enemies” — as once dear old Neville flew all the way to Munich to talk to Herr Hitler.
Cairo – U.S. Senator Barack Obama represents a phenomenon that has drawn global attention and captivated the minds of Muslims around the world as he wages a spirited campaign to become the next president of the United States.
In spite of the campaign’s heated debate and some controversial rhetoric regarding Islam, large segments of the Muslim population here remain fascinated with the election and have become big fans of Senator Obama.
This level of support for an American presidential candidate is unprecedented in the Muslim world. That it comes amid an almost unanimous feeling of indignation and rage toward US foreign policy — particularly in Iraq and the Palestinian territories — makes it even more noteworthy.
The simple explanation is that many Muslims see new reason for hope in the political approach of Obama and his advisers. His apparent eagerness to rally more international support for US policy, and even talk to America’s “enemies,” is cause for optimism. Imagine what global politics might look like in Iraq, or Sudan, or Afghanistan, if Obama-like vision had influenced US leadership earlier.
Oh, I can imagine that all too vividly.
As an Arab Muslim in Egypt who is affected by US foreign policy, I believe an Obama approach may help solve the accumulated problems between Muslims and the US that have become more aggravated since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. New and more creative techniques for dealing with extremists instead of the controversial methods used by the current US administration could also stop giving Al Qaeda and other such groups the pretext for recruiting new members. Then, perhaps, extremists would lose the arguments that fuel their criminal machine and lead them to destroy innocent people….
Maybe. But if they’re emboldened by his weakness and naivete, and if the stealth jihad marches inexorably forward, and free speech is restricted in the West just when it is needed the most to alert people to that stealth jihad, what will Yasser Khalil turn to then to rein in the “extremists”?
By embracing dialogue with Muslim populated countries such as Syria and Iran, and jump-starting US diplomatic efforts, Obama will open doors that have been shut — and bolted — in recent years. It is in the interest of all Muslim countries that the US president have such a constructive approach, even while maintaining a high degree of friendship with Israel and powers supporting it in the US and abroad.
In pursuing rational, inclusive, and creative politics, Obama can remain effective while still overcoming obstacles that impede the path of global peace and coexistence.
Good luck with that.