Muslim Americans React to Obama Speech

By Jacqueline L. Salmon Lots of reaction from Muslim Americans to the speech. The Cliff Notes summary: They liked it, … Continued

By Jacqueline L. Salmon

Lots of reaction from Muslim Americans to the speech. The Cliff Notes summary: They liked it, although had a few quibbles:

Amaney Jamal, assistant professor of politics at Princeton: “Fabulous,” although she wanted to hear more specifics on solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. But “he was able to bridge the gap and showcase the accomplishments and Americanism of Muslim Americans in the United States. This is a 180-degree turn from the Bush administration.”

Suhail Khan, senior fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement: “Important speech. The president touched on many key issues. Follow-through will be essential…Muslim Americans and people in the Muslim-majority world, particularly young Muslims, are accustomed to hearing a lot of promises and, for want of a better word, flowery language from American leaders about freedom and democracy. Now they are very hopeful . But follow-through is needed and that will require some tangible steps, particularly in the Arab-Israeli conflict..With high hopes come expectations.”

Eboo Patel, Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core and member of White House faith council: “Martin Luther King Jr. sought to bridge the great divides of his age by challenging the dominant paradigm and lifting up a new framework. King was clear: This isn’t a black vs. white world, but a ‘live together as brothers or perish together as fools’ world. Today in Cairo, President Obama made his most King-like speech. Obama came to Cairo to bridge one of the great divides of our age – between the United States and the Muslim world.” Rest of Patel’s remarks at his On Faith column, the Faith Divide.

James Zogby, pollster and president of the Arab American Institute:

“It was a ‘big speech.’ More like a State of the Union than the Philadelphia race speech. It was an agenda-setter, a menu designed to address a wide range of problems across a broad region. In that regard, it was evidence of how massive an undertaking will be required to heal these many divides. In speaking with friends in the Middle East, this morning, I was impressed how many parts of the speech resonated. Everyone could take away something – peace activists, advocates for democracy and women’s rights, religious minorities, etc. In that regard, the menu worked. What concerns me, though, is that there was so much to the speech, that its central thrust will be lost here in the U.S.. Listening to some of the commentators on TV this morning was troubling. Those from past administrations didn’t get it at all. Some appeared concerned that Obama wasn’t tough enough – (did they really want him to deliver another “axis of evil” speech?) Others crowed, “he really gave it to them on democracy, etc” – totally missing the point that this President wasn’t talking ‘at’ Muslims, he was working to engage ‘with’ them.”

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