Let Us Talk

June 4, 2009

President Obama in Cairo, Egypt: Time For A “New beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Egypt Obama

This morning at 6:10 am EST President Obama made brilliant history yet again and Americans should be proud because we made progress with Muslims worldwide today.

After years of American and Middle East tension where we mutually viewed each other in a not so friendly manner, today the Egypt state broadcasting service was beaming uplifting scenes of the American and Egyptian flags flying side by side and Obama’s smiling face superimposed over graphics of the Pyramids and local landmarks. An image of the Egyptian and American flags woven together in a yin and yang fashion was kept on the screen of Egypt State TV throughout the morning.  That by itself is absolutely incredible!

Speaking in the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture and quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, and said together, we can confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. ‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ Obama said

By President Obama making his much anticipated speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in downtown Cairo instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, he told the people of Egypt that he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he peppered his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel but with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. Home run!!!

American European Activists Demostrate for Peace in Gaza

President Obama was blunt about the United States “unbreakable bonds” with Israel but promptly stated that Palestinian was “suffering” since Israel’s founding in 1948 and that there was a real and immediate need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a secure Palestinian state.

President Obama acknowledged the negative stereotypes of Islam that took root in America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but also said that Muslim nations need to fix their own exaggerated views of the United States as a country bent on dominating them.

The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deep and complex. 

Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset.   

President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. 

President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. President Clinton appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims.  Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. 

One year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.

With his speech in Cairo, President Obama laid another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world right in the heart of the Middle East.  Past years and decades have deepened the rift in our relationship with Muslims worldwide but particularly in the Middle East and our President have now created a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue hoping to find areas of common interest and new ways of communication in areas where we don’t agree. 

By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have been problematic over recent years.

Well done President Obama!

President Obama’s Cairo speech:

Cairo Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip Rafah watch President Obama Cairo U  Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip town of Rafah watch President Obama speak at Cairo University.

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