Cairo speech had little impact

June 16, 2010


One year ago this month, President Obama addressed the “Muslim world” from Cairo, Egypt. Some saw that speech as unnecessary groveling. Critics — and I am among them — think such displays communicate weakness and only encourage those who wish to damage our economy and kill our people. Supporters of the president’s speech think he did the right thing and that his attempt to reduce tensions between the United States and Muslim world can only bring positive results.

National Public Radio recalled the Cairo speech with two Muslim guests, Reza Aslan, author of “Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization”) and Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist and political commentator. Neither saw the speech as having made any difference. Both incorrectly centered the problem between the U.S. and the “Muslim world” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This serves as a distraction from much larger problems in the Middle East that have to do with suppression of women’s rights, intolerance of any religion except Islam and dictatorships.

Mr. Aslan called the president’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian problem “disastrous,” but that usually means the president has not succeeded in forcing Israel to make more unilateral concessions.

Ms. Soueif expressed the paranoia one often sees in that region of the world when she claimed, “there is no way that the U.S. administration now would really like to see a democratic Egypt because a democratic Egypt could not toe the line with regard to American policies concerning Israel and with regard to Israeli policies in the region.” This depends on what one means by “democratic.” Too often in that region, the first election can be the last election.

While this post-Cairo analysis was taking place, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued building nuclear weapons with the clear intent of obliterating Israel. President Obama’s outstretched hand toward Iran has not and cannot work because Ahmadinejad is a true believer in the worst sense of that word and has no intention of compromising with “infidels.”

Having sponsored a flotilla of boats containing activists with ties to known terrorist groups, Turkey, a member of NATO, appears intent on embracing Islamic radicalism. It is hosting this week in Istanbul a summit featuring several Asian leaders the goal of which is to, “increase security and trust on the continent.” Ahmadinejad, Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmud Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are among the participants. Not many in the West would feel secure around, let alone trust, this bunch. Separately, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invited a Hezbollah leader from Lebanon.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported last week that British security services are concerned that a new generation of British extremists is being radicalized by Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaida preacher born in America, but hiding in Yemen from which he has inspired the accused Fort Hood shooter, the Christmas Day bomber and the Times Square bombers. British security is concerned that Awlaki’s followers might unleash a wave of guerrilla-style terrorist attacks, similar to the Mumbai massacre.

In the United States, the construction of mosques continues rapidly. There is already one major mosque operating in Manhattan, another in Brooklyn, and another has been approved for construction adjacent to the location of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, by people who claimed to be acting in the name of their god. Last week, several hundred people packed a Staten Island civic association meeting to oppose plans to convert a Roman Catholic convent into a mosque.

According to the New York Times, protests against construction of mosques have also occurred in Brentwood, Tenn., Sheboygan, Wis., and Dayton, Ohio. No reciprocal rights have been granted to Jews and Christians to build synagogues and churches in Muslim countries, nor has President Obama called for such reciprocity.

A year after the president’s Cairo speech, there is no evidence anything has changed. Radical Muslims are intent on changing us and they will not stop until they’ve reached their objective.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. tmseditors@tribune.com


denak 7 years, 11 months ago

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 11 months ago

What's not refreshing is what Obama doesn't speak, especially in his obvious lack of belief that America is an exceptional country and in his repeated apologizing for America and groveling to foreign leaders. Such people understand and respect only one thing: Strength. Obama has telegraphed weakness ever since he took office, our enemies know it, and they're playing it for all it's worth.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 11 months ago

"Such people understand and respect only one thing: Strength." === Cato, perhaps, but there are different kinds of strength. We have tended to concentrate on military, but the major religions, preach much more. Realistically scanning the horizon and commenting on how we are all tied together is not groveling. If we really want to spend all our money stomping the rest of the world, we need to budget money and blood for it, tax enough to pay for it now and get the draft back. Diplomacy has its place, despite GW's attempts to undermine centuries of tradition. PS: Wonder which war Mr. Thomas signed up for. He seems to like kicking other people's butts. Does he want his family on the front lines, or did he have 'other priorities' like the Dark Lord Cheney when his number came up?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

Gee, what a surprise. One adherent of a violence-prone superstition, Cal, displays his paranoia about enemies he sees as being adherents of a slightly different violence-prone superstition.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 11 months ago

...as a matter of fact you're all scum; unless you're me...defender!!

jaywalker 7 years, 11 months ago

Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. How does anyone really know? While I'm not a big fan of everything he said in that speech, I believe it was fairly obvious that a new tack had to be attempted. If he'd have just stayed with the unilateral "we're a superpower and you gotta live with it" course that W. stuck to, there would have been no chance for changing hearts and minds.

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