Today’s speech by President Barack Obama in Cairo, Egypt was greatly anticipated. This was the first time that an American President went out of his way to speak to the practicing Muslims of the world and attempt to forge a new beginning in how Americans view Muslims and how Muslims view Americans.
The speech addressed seven major areas of concern:
- Violent extremism
- Nuclear proliferation
- Religious freedom
- Women’s rights
- Economic development and opportunity
Nothing Obama said in these areas should have surprised anyone. In each area his message was consistent with America’s core beliefs. Conservatives, of course will be enraged by the fact that Obama called the war in Iraq a war of choice (as opposed to the war in Afghanistan which he labeled a war of necessity). The “right” will also get their undies in a knot over Obama’s concession that we have tortured and his commitment that we will do so no more. As far as I am concerned, these things had to be said. If we hold ourselves to be perfect, we cannot build peace with other nations. We must first look to our own deficits, admit them, and correct them before we can hope to influence the minds and hearts of others.
Obama did not let Muslims “off the hook” for their own contributions to the current state of affairs. He pointed out how Muslims must resolve the Sunni/Shia struggle. He commented on how Muslims must not oppress followers of other religions, singling out the Copts in Egypt as an example.
What I felt Obama did most skillfully was what every preacher does. My criticism of organized religion is that scripture can be cherry-picked to prove just about any point you want to prove. Today, Obama was a master of scripture cherry-picking, relying mostly on the Quran, but ending in a beautiful “triple-play” of Christian/Jewish/Muslim text.
As thetells us, Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.
The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as it if has killed all mankind.
And the Holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.
There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
And then the grand finale:
The Holy Quran tells us, Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.
The Talmud tells us, The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.
The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
When all is said and done, I don’t expect the world to change because of this speech. Yet it still says something about the United States of America that we can send forth a leader to deliver a message to the world that needs to be delivered.
The man who does not speak because he believes no one will listen, is not a noble man. The very act of trying to change hearts and minds through peaceful persuasion is a noble one, regardless of the consequences.
For other perspectives on this speech from around the WPPBA, please visit these blogs: