Barack Obama was in Cairo today for around 8 hours, and he gave a speech at Cairo University. I wasn’t at home at the time so I couldn’t watch it live, but I got messages from friends asking what I thought of the speech. Apparently everyone watched it and everyone I’ve spoken to since was really impressed. For the first time in a while Egyptians (and others) are excited and positive about something political. Maybe because Bush’s speeches were such disasters, or maybe because we can see goodwill behind Obama’s words, but he really does seem to be someone that can change things. I had my doubts when he got elected since I doubt any American president has the power to change as much as we seem to think he can. And Obama has stopped talking about torture, Guantanamo etc and is very cautious about what he says about Israel-Palestine. But still, the speech today showed that he is making some kind of effort to reach out to Muslims. Some nice moments from the speech…
How he spoke Arabic at the beginning, saying “shukran” and “salaam alaikum”.
When he mentioned Al-Azhar, and how it has existed for 1000 years. He described Azhar and Cairo University as representing the harmony between tradition and progress.
America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. They overlap and share common principles: justice, progress, tolerance. There must be an effort to listen and learn from each other.
He mentioned the Qur’an and quoted from it, which of course got a lot of applause. I have to say it touched me too. He mentioned hearing the adaan when he lived in Indonesia, and the amazing accomplishments of Islamic civilization which paved the way for Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment.
How interconnected the world is today; a problem in one country has repurcussions everywhere. Thus it is in everyone’s best interest to help others.
Those were some of the good points he made. Of course I didn’t believe the whole “we want to leave Afghanistan; we were forced to attack; etc etc” but I guess he has to say that.
Wish I had been able to see him!