Subtle Muslim Politics

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

From Slate:

If President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on Thursday is designed to hit “reset” on Washington’s relations with the Muslim world, the White House may soon find that it is pushing the wrong buttons. Public diplomacy in the lands of Islam is a deeply complicated affair, and Muslims do it much better than U.S. presidents.

[…]

“By addressing the ‘Islamic world’ from Cairo,” writes Goldman, “Obama lends credibility to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other advocates of political Islam who demand that Muslims be addressed globally and on religious terms.” In other words, the American president is playing into the hands of those who seek to bring down the U.S.-backed order in the Middle East.

The point makes excellent sense. I’ll admit, I hadn’t even thought of the fact that addressing Islam as a whole would be a political statement out of the norm. I tend to take it for granted that the “Islamic World” does exist. Not as a uniform, unshifting mass, of course, but as a general term, the same as European or Western Nations. But since the demise of the Ottoman Empire, technically the term is different.

But does that make it so?

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Jun 05, 2009 @ 21:09:51

    I disagree with this part of the quote: “the American president is playing into the hands of those who seek to bring down the U.S.-backed order in the Middle East.”

    For starters, what does this mean: “the U.S.-backed order in the Middle East”?! Perhaps the author is referring to Iraq; which is certainly U.S.-backed, but not very orderly. Alternatively, the author is referring to Israel, which is certainly U.S.-backed. But I wouldn’t describe most of the order in the Middle-East as U.S.-backed.

    Second: how do we know that Obama is playing into the hands of a particular party? Consider a point made by Matt Yglesias:

    … the remarkable way in which this speech is being pushed out in multiple media—on television, but also on Twitter and on Facebook and via SMS and all in multiple languages—to a global audience. […] Anyone who’s interested will be able to Google up a transcript. And if people like the speech, it’ll become a YouTube classic.

    In other words, Obama is speaking over the heads of the political and social elites, directly to the people. He’s speaking respectfully of Islam, touting a two-state solution, and demanding an end to Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. At the same time, he’s criticizing those (like the President of Iran) who wish to drive Israel into the sea and he’s denouncing Holocaust-deniers.

    So I ask again, how do we know he’s playing into the hands of a particular party?

    Only the passing of time will reveal what impact Obama’s speech has — if any.

    Reply

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