Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama's Outreach Speech in Egypt

Obama's good intentions may be paving the road to hell, as David Frum comments on his upcoming gig in Egypt. (read)
Candidate Obama promised to deliver a major speech to the Muslim world from a Muslim capital. On June 4, President Obama will make good on that promise in Cairo. What could go wrong with this heartwarming outreach? Begin with this question: Does the president regard Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as belonging to the Muslim world, yes or no?

If yes – if “the Muslim world” includes everyone who happens to be born to a family of Muslim origin regardless of his or her own personal belief, and if it includes liberals of Muslim origin, secularists of Muslim origin, atheists of Muslim origin – then it seems almost pointless to speak to them all as a distinctive group.

The more likely answer however is no - Rushdie and Ali are not intended. Almost inevitably, the President’s speech will address the most anti-Western, the most militant, the most radical Muslims. The decision to speak “to” the Muslim world is a decision to speak “to” these rejectionists.
Nobody is sure what Obama is going to say to the Egyptians, but this could be the most important speech of this generation. It's a real chance to inspire free thinking in the Muslim world.

It's a huge challenge. Let's hope he doesn't blow the opportunity and do another boring, vacuous speech.

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