Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama Shout Out to the Muslim World

Guest Blogger - Jim Fine

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, my home state, should have been as gratified as I was yesterday when President Barak Obama issued his inaugural call to the Muslim world and pledged “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Senator Specter had told Congressional colleagues last spring that a good bit of recent U.S. foreign policy toward the Muslim world and elsewhere had been “insulting” and “earned us the title of ‘the ugly American.’” The Obama administration’s change in tone should be a change that Republicans as well as Democrats can believe in.

Senator Specter favors U.S. talks with Iran without preconditions. President Obama has promised such talks. President Obama’s shout out to the Muslim world picked up Iran’s favorite word in talking about the change it wants from the U.S., “respect.” Iranians will have gotten the message that the President’s remarks were directed to them, as well as to others. The president’s challenge to Muslim leaders that “your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy,” will also have resonated in Iran, where the sad state of the Iranian economy will be a key issue in the presidential elections that will take place this June. Dissatisfaction with the economy may help the moderates in Iran. A softer U.S. tone may help the moderates, too.

The U.S. and Iran have many common interests: in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Administration initiative and bipartisan support in Congress for pursuing them, with respect, will be needed. The inaugural address was a good start.


Anonymous Anne Remley said...

Bravo, Jim. I heard the call to the Muslim world with great hope. A special envoy to Israel-Palestine should be a positive next step. I'm going to share your "Shout Out" on our web site for Quakers with a concern for Palestine-Israel,

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, by Hamoom Majd. I recommend this well-written and enjoyable book to anyone who's curious about modern Iran and its people.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am especially gratified to see a new president who can & will deal with Iran without the threats & sabre rattling from the previous administration. As an American Baha'i I am concerned by the persecution of Baha'is & other religious minorities in Iran. A lot of bullying & threats from Washington is not the answer to that dilemma.
If Mr. Obama will deal gently & respectfully with Iran I think we can better secure the rights & safety of Iran's religious minorities. As well as forge a link of peace & cooperation between our nations. I truly believe that the average Iranian no more supports their governments more misguided policies than the average American supported G.W.Bush's use of torture, or of imprisoning & rendering people without recourse.
Perhaps we can use this opportunity to defuse this powderkeg & better the lives of all Iranians & U.S. citizens ( I refuse to call us Americans specifically, as everyone from Arctic Canada to Tierra del Fuego & the entire Caribbean is certainly an "American ).
There is a better way for folks to resolve our differences, & I am hopeful that our new president will seek the better way.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Blair Seitz said...

I certainly agree with Jim that the message seemed clear--with President Obama using his middle name, Hussein, in his swearing in and the unequivocally positive references to Muslims made in the speech. It is exciting seeing Obama making good on some of his campaign promises immediately including working on Palestine-Israel from day one. The naming of Mitchell as special envoy is, in my opinion, fabulous rather than leaving this enormous task to the Secretary of State who would start out with some negatives on the Palestinian side.

3:08 PM  

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