When I wrote “Middle East: Obama’s Simmering Volcano” on April 20th., I foresaw President Obama’s firm intentions of veering away from the Bush Muslim-hatred speech that targeted on the Muslim world as the centre of the “axis of evil”.
Today’s speech at El Cairo University and remarks during the stopover visit at Saudi Arabia are a clear indication of the President’s extended hand policy that may for the first time go far beyond the historic words he has pronounced. Indeed, Obama’s speech deserves a special consideration and I would say a thorough attention of some of the keynotes that envision future U.S. foreign policy.
There are two differentiated audiences to which Obama’s speech was addressed to, the Muslim world in general with special emphasis in the Middle East and Central Asian regions, and the 9 M Muslim populations living in the USA. However, White House strategists surely have taken into account that any words pleasant to Muslim ears would in turn have been like sour grape to Jewish communities not only in Israel but specially so amongst the powerful Jewish business sectors in the homeland.
President Obama’s humble mea culpa on the Iraq invasion and Afghanistan warfront did not make him waver in his plea for Muslim nations to make an effort to likewise extend their hand in sign of their own goodwill. The firm support for the Alliance of Civilizations created at the proposal of Spain’s Prime Minister, Rodríguez Zapatero, and eagerly seconded by Turkey’s Erdogan under the umbrella of the United Nations, is a clear proof that President Obama has had intense contacts during his first official spree to Europe and Turkey last April. Likewise, citing the Al Andalus Route that established Muslim culture in Andalusia with Córdoba as the seat of learning, was a clear wink to the tolerant model of peaceful co-existence established by the Muslims in the Spanish Peninsula with Christians and Jews in a the prosperous cradle of cultures. However, his advisors should check up historical quotes as Al Andalus in no way was in the same century as the Inquisition.
Unfortunately, the challenge launched must now turn from mere words of the best intentions to actions that show proof of said extended hand in goodwill and peace. President Obama has set up a historic precedent. Now his Muslim counterparts must reply to his extended hand.
Madrid, June 4, 2009