Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Respect and the Muslim World

In his interview yesterday with Al Arabiya TV, Barack Obama set forth an important line of communication. In choosing to address the Muslim and the Arab worlds with his first televised interview he offered a very different face. Rather than the "you're for me or against" me kind of rhetoric that marked the previous administration, Obama spoke from his own experience. He has Muslim relatives and lived in a Muslim country -- Indonesia.

With that in mind he speaks of the need to listen and to live together with mutual respect.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: The largest one, Indonesia. And so what I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith – and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers – regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.

And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task.

But ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions. And I think that what you will see over the next several years is that I'm not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what's on a television station in the Arab world - but I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure that I'm speaking to them, as well.

And he makes it clear that actions will speak louder than words. And we on this side of the divide will be watching as well. But this is a good sign, one to be commended. Only the most jaded, anti-Muslim folk can dismiss this effort (and of course there are plenty of them in the nation, but hopefully they are only a minority).

Barack Obama has extended the hand of friendship, distinguishes between terrorist groups and the Muslim people, and offers a way forward.

Here is part 2 of the interview in which this is most clearly expressed:

1 comment:

Mike L. said...

This is encouraging. Let there be hope!