Sweetened poison: How Obama lost Muslim hearts and minds
Fawaz A. Gerges, The Middle East Channel, Foreign Policy, June 4, 2010
A year after President Obama's historic speech last June 4 in Cairo, the reality of his Middle East policy is in sharp contrast to the promising rhetoric and high expectations he raised. Obama's address, coupled with a concerted outreach strategy, made a deep impression among Arabs and Muslims. Many hoped that the young African-American president would seriously confront the challenges facing the region and establish a new relationship with the world of Islam.
Although it is not too late for Obama to close the gap between rhetoric and action, sadly for now, he has not taken bold steps to achieve a breakthrough in America's relations with the Muslim arena. His foreign policy is more status quo and damage control than transformational. Like their American counterparts, Muslims desperately long for real change that they believe in.
Unless President Obama takes risks in the Middle East, he might end up leaving a legacy of broken promises and shattered expectations in the region. Unless addressed effectively, Obama runs the risk of rupturing America's relationship with the Muslim Middle East further.
The Arab and Muslim response to the Cairo speech last year revealed a sense of optimism, of real change, tempered with instinctual scepticism. There also was a widespread feeling among many Arabs and Muslims that a man with the name, Barack Hussein Obama ("Blessed Hussein is with us"), would understand their universe better than his predecessors and treat them as partners, instead of subordinates, and rectify previous mistakes and misuses of American power.
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