Mixed reactions to Obama’s speech

Mixed reactions to Obama’s speech

US President Barack Obama”s historic speech on Thursday (June 4) to the Muslim world calling for a “new beginning” in ties with America evoked a positive response in Egypt with political circles expressing satisfation over his reference to the Palestinian statehood.


“This is a correct start,” head of political office of major Opposition Muslim Brotherhood, Issam al-Iryan, said referring to Obama”s criticism of Israel”s settlement activities in the West Bank.


“The most important step would be implementation of this vision. Muslims cannot turn a new leaf with US unless there is a just and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian issue,” he said.


During his landmark speech at the Egyptian capital in his first visit to Middle East after assuming Presidency, Obama said: “the US does not accept legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.”


The Egyptian media extensively covered the speech at Cairo University to the Arab and Muslim world. All channels broadcast the speech live and in full and followed it with analysis and commentaries.


Analyst Lamis al-Hadidi observed that Obama started his speech with the Arabic greetings “Shukran” (thank you) and “Al-Salam Alekom” (peace be upon you), and finished with verses from the Holy Quran and the Bible.


She noted that the audience applauded Obama about 30 times and did not only focus in his speech on dialogue between the US and the Muslim world but also on regional issues describing the war on Iraq as one of “choice” in a bid not to “dishearten combat troops” in Iraq.


Analyst Emad Adib said the speech was the best he had heard since that of former Egyptian president Anwar As-sadat in the Israeli Knesset. “Besides Obama”s charisma and oratory skills, it seems the president used a balance of gold to balance the messages.”


Obama”s speech touched on six main points: confrontation of violent extremism in all of its forms; situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world; shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons; democracy; religious freedom; women”s rights and economic development; and war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Despite the number of topics covered, average Egyptians were mainly interested in US-Egypt relations and the Israeli-Palestinian cause. “It was a more than excellent speech. He gave Arabs back

their dignity. He called for things that are very good for Arabs and for Islam. It is the first time an American president speaks on such issues,” Hammad, a doorman who was following the speech on his radio transistor, said.


The Human rights groups were also satisfied with the mention of freedom of religion and the rights of Copts (Egyptian Christians), right of women and democracy.


The same positive impression was echoed by Issam, a university student who was more impressed with Obama”s oratory skills: “It is clear that Obama is so well informed and educated. He spoke from the top of his head with no script to follow. His mind was so organised.”


The only group which was not that satisfied with the speech was the “Kifaya movement” which call on an end to the rule of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak. They believe Egypt should not have been chosen as a platform to address the Islamic world when it lacks any type of true democracy.


Founding member of Kifaya, Karima Al-Hifnawi said, “Obama showed us we were right not to accept the invitations to attend the speech. He completely overlooked democracy in Egypt. He showed he is giving a green light to Mubarak to do whatever he wants.”


Analyzing the speech, Vice-Director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Dr Wahid Abd-al-Majid said, “There was nothing surprising in the US president”s speech. Surprises might have come if he had tackled details. However, he did not deal with details of important issues like

the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He only stated general guidelines.”


The Source