April 8, 2009

Bridging the chasm

The real shock of Obama’s unannounced Iraq visit was the relatively warm response he got from many Iraqis. Reza Aslan on why there were no flying shoes.
There has been much grumbling among Republicans that Obama’s message to the Muslim world sounds exactly like Bush’s message. Dana Perino, the former president’s former press secretary, voiced frustration on CNN that Obama was being feted in Turkey and praised by the Muslim world for saying essentially the same thing that George Bush said over and over again: that Islam is a religion of peace; that America is a friend to all Muslims; that the war on terror is not a war against Islam. Yet, what Perino and others fail to recognize is that Muslims around the world are not a bunch of children who cannot tell the difference between being talked down to and being addressed with respect and dignity. Nor do they seem to realize that Bush’s banalities (“I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God”) could not mask the religiously polarizing, “us versus them” rhetoric that permeated everything the former president said and did. And must I say what every schoolchild knows: that actions speak louder than words?

Still, beyond all of these differences with Bush, the simple fact remains that Obama is in a unique position to, as he put it in Turkey, seek a new “partnership with the Muslim world,” simply because of who he is. On Monday morning, at the opening session of the Alliance of Civilizations' second-annual forum, where Obama made a few informal remarks to a select group of heads of state, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared the president of the United States—the son of a Muslim man from Africa and a Christian woman from Kansas—to the glorious, multi-faith, multi-ethnic city of Istanbul, which literally bridges the continents of Europe and Asia. It was an apt metaphor for a man on a mission to bridge the chasm that has formed over the least eight years between the U.S. and the Muslim world.
Also read Reza's previous article, a day before Obama went to Turkey, in which he writes about "why it will take more than charm to convince the Muslim world the clash of civilizations mentality is finally over."

Well.. like I blogged earlier, convince them he did with his charm and his address in Ankara.

P.S. See pictures of Obama in Iraq. Maybe its my mood, but I was very moved going through the gallery!

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