Beyond Obama’s speech in Egypt

Asian Leader By Majed Iqbal- Earlier this month, the American President, Barack Obama visited a number of Muslim Countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in efforts to open up a new chapter of US and Muslim relations.

Barack Obama’s speech in Egypt was watched internationally from East to West, in light of all the pressing issues that had hit our screens in the past years like the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s silence on Gaza and the recent open drone attacks in Pakistan under the guise of fighting Americas “war on terror”.

Surprisingly, in his speech it was not US- Arab relations discussions that were being alluded to. Instead the primary focus was referenced as developing ‘Muslim’ relations with the ‘Islamic World’.

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect”

Some were taken back by his speech and hailed it as a new direction in policy towards the Muslim world which seemed to be ripe with positive gesture and promises of a new era of relations. Was America admitting its failures? Was America admitting that the Iraq war was wrong? Was America admitting that its War on Terror was ill-devised which has caused devastation in key parts of the Muslim world?

“We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims”

In Early April a similar tone of voice was used in Obama’s Turkey trip. In an address to the Turkish parliament various meetings and conferences, whilst in Turkey he stated

“America is not at war with either Islam or Muslims and that Turkey is important for America and the world, as a bridge between the Islamic World and the West”

He also stressed that America’s relations with Muslims is not merely confined to fighting terrorism but includes many other issues as well and will work towards a dialogue with Turkey.

The trips to the Muslim World have therefore been a massive PR exercise to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Muslim world after the utter devastation and destruction which has been wrought to the region. However, beyond the statements of the American President, many observers and the masses in general have opened up the “this is your life” book for Obama in his current short spell which began in January this year speculatively.


In his first few months in office, Obama’s administration succeeded in creating three million refugees in Pakistan by pushing the Zardari regime to launch a war in Swat. Even before he took office he declared Pakistan the most dangerous place on earth, and said he would even bomb Islamabad if he had to. His whole policy in the region is driven by trying to secure America’s foothold in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and fighting a popular insurgency – except he decided to sacrifice Pakistan’s soldiers instead of American ones.

On Palestine his response to Israel’s massacre in Gaza was “America is committed to Israel’s security. And we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats.”

And continued to praise the ‘special’ relationship with Israel when he said

“We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defence relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defence programs”.

Obama promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp simply meant that many of the prisoners will remain imprisoned elsewhere.

Obama support for the brutal Dictators remained un-changed like his predecessors. In his recent BBC interview he described Mubarak, the Egyptian President

“he’s been a stalwart ally to the US… he’s been a force for stability and good in the region”.

He also praised Mubarak’s “sustained peace with Israel” which included blockading the people of Gaza from getting help and humanitarian relief.

It remains questionable to the international audience as to what exactly America was trying to sell in its visits to the Muslim World where little change had been seen on America’s part to re-evaluate their stances on the key above issues- all of which have remained exactly the same as the Bush Administration.

The Obama administration has placed a concentrated effort to justify its war on terror by embarking on these visits to the Muslim World. Today, Iraqi’s and Afghanis still do not believe that America is fighting for ‘Justice’ and ‘world peace’ but rather for colonial designs.

Pakistanis are finding it hard to swallow that their countries sons in the Army are dying due to an American War which has pitted citizens against each other, displaced over 3 million people in the largest refugee crisis in this century and a war which reaps no benefits for the Pakistani nation.

Obama said “In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people

Hence, the propaganda war resumes with the new American president trying his utmost best to convince the Muslim World that their problems exist due to extremists and not because of America’s foreign policy and its colonial world view.

In the mean while, many are awakening to questioning these agendas which is what has began to concern America the most.

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