And so the oppressed remain oppressed, with no one to speak for them, and those who believe that they have a divine responsibility to wage war against those who do not share their creed, impose institutional inequality upon women and disbelievers, and extinguish the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, see that the putative leader of the free world fears to speak out against them.
Here is an analysis of Obama’s disastrous Cairo speech.
“The crafting of Obama’s Cairo speech to world’s Muslims,” by Christi Parsons in the Los Angeles Times, August 2 (thanks to James):
Reporting from Washington — He sat with his legs crossed in an armchair in the Oval Office, his brow furrowed. Aides clustered on the couches around him. They could see black scratch marks all over their proposal for the most sensitive speech of his young presidency — his long-promised address to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.
For weeks, they had toiled over the text. Now, some stole glances at the lead writer of the address, 31-year-old Ben Rhodes, as the lengthening silence confirmed that their best shot had fallen short.
Finally, President Obama dropped the manuscript into his lap and took a deep breath.
“I know you’ve been under a lot of pressure to get this right,” he said. “But this speech is way too cautious. We have to say everything and say everything candidly. I’m not going all the way to Cairo to do anything else.”…
Candidly? Yet he stood at the brink of the defense of human rights, and drew back:
Obama worked his way around the cream-colored couches that flank the Oval Office fireplace, probing his aides’ thoughts.
“We knew all the arguments not to say things,” one recalled.
“He said, ‘Look, put all those concerns aside. We need to be aware of them. . . . But I’m not going to fail to raise 9/11. I’m not going to not talk about women’s rights in this way because it might be uncomfortable for some people.’ “…
Some Israelis and American Jews recoiled at the way Obama juxtaposed the suffering of the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitic persecution with the experience of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Some Muslims were stunned to hear a Christian American president quote the Koran as he spoke to them about changing their attitudes toward Israel….
Other experts warned of pitfalls.
Talking about 9/11 would feed the theory widely believed in the Arab world that the U.S. had staged the attacks to justify military action against Islam. Decrying unequal treatment of women could bring charges of hypocrisy because of U.S. friendship with the likes of the Saudi royal family.
One especially emphatic warning came from a couple of Middle Eastern scholars. Beware of quoting the Koran, they said; the president might sound like he is pandering.
Worse, the complexities of Koranic interpretation might open Obama to ridicule by hostile clerics. Obama would “be playing on the turfs of the religious authorities,” said one person who was present. “And then who are people going to believe — the president of the United States, or the sheik?”…
References to the Koran changed, too. Instead of tucking quotations deep in the speech, Rhodes followed Obama’s admonition to invoke the Islamic holy text more prominently.
Rashad Hussain, a devout Muslim on loan from the White House counsel’s office, suggested the passage: “There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.’ “…
A motorcade sped them through the streets. Then, surreally, the frenetic pace was interrupted as the president paused to tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque, one of the world’s oldest.
Hussain from the White House counsel’s office joined Rhodes, McDonough and others trailing behind Obama.
Afterward, there was a hint that the Cairo speech achieved at least one goal — reaching over the heads of leaders and making contact with ordinary Muslims.
Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, heard poignant evidence of that.
A friend in Cairo told Salem that on the day of the speech, he saw a little boy walking along the street, a smile on his face as he chanted in a soft, singsong voice: “Obama quoted the Koran. Obama quoted the Koran.”