Obama in the Muslim world: Reaction to the president’s speech

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President Obama spoke to the Muslim world today from Cairo University in Egypt. Read what others thought of his speech and then tell us what you think.

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Faysal Bazzi, 59, is a Shiite Muslim who owns a mini-market near the old Green Line that divided Christian East Beirut from Muslim West Beirut during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.


‘Any American speech to the Muslim and Arab world should consider the Palestinian issue the central issue.’

‘The American administration has to understand the hardships we live because of the Israeli occupation, so the three most important things he should have talked about were dictatorships in the region, the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian right to resist.’

‘We have nothing against the American people, but we are against America because it supports Israel, so we hope Obama will change the future policies of the United States.’

‘I’m from a village in south Lebanon, and almost everyone has emigrated because Israel destroyed it -- they killed us and destroyed everything. Obama has asked for change -- well, you can’t have partial change without comprehensive change, and change in America will have effects abroad.’

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Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip.

‘Speaking about a policy of pursuing a war against extremism and working towards two states for peoples on Palestinian lands is no different than the policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush.’

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Nabil abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

‘The part of Obama’s speech regarding the Palestinian issue is an important step. This is the beginning of a new American policy, and this policy is creating a new atmosphere to build the Palestinian state.’

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Mohammed Ali Jassim, 55, owner of a clothing shop in east Baghdad.

‘It was great to hear that the Americans will leave Iraq to the Iraqis. And that Iraq will be a partner and independent.’

‘His speech gave the impression that there will be a new policy for America toward the Muslim world.’

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Ahmed Mustafa, 23, college student, Baghdad.

‘I like what he talked about ... but during his speech, he pretended as if he had the magic key when he talked about unemployment in the world and some other problems.’

‘But he didn’t apologize for the many mistakes American troops made in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

‘It was not that necessary to mention the 6 millions Jews victims [in the Holocaust] … but he didn’t mention the Palestinian victims.’
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Sadegh Zibakalam, an Iranian analyst.

‘For the first time I saw a U.S. leader who was balanced and showed that he is caring for the rights of the Palestinian people.’

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Daniel Hershkowitz, Israeli science and technology minister, commented on Obama’s speech during a tour of the settlements of Mt. Hebron, from Ynet news site.

‘In his speech, Obama ignored that fact that Palestinians are yet to renounce the path of terror. The Israeli government is not a burden on the American administration. Our relations with the Americans are based on friendship and not on surrender. With regards to natural growth in the settlements we must tell the Americans -- no more.’

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Statement from the settlers council carried by Israel Radio.

‘The state of Israel is paying the price of its leaders’ defeatism. Hussein Obama preferred the false version of the Arabs over the Jewish truth, spoken in a weak and stammering voice.’

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Headline that ran with the full text of Obama’s speech on the Yesha Council website.

‘Never has so much hoopla been made before, during and after a speech which said nothing new.’

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Peace Now statement carried by Israel Radio.

‘Israel must say ‘Yes’ to Obama, stop the settlements and advance the two-state vision. President Obama has the ability to serve as an honest broker and advance Israel towards the solution of the conflict with the Arab world.’

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Minister for Minority Affairs Avishai Braverman (Labor Party), from news site Ynet.

‘President Obama rightly said that the shared enemy of the entire world was extremism, and ruled that finding the common denominator was the solution for eradicating this phenomenon. We in Israel must adopt this approach in the Israeli society -- Jews and Arabs, seculars and religious -- and certainly place it in the face of the Palestinian society. Two states for two people is the solution we are committed to.’

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Aryeh Eldad, Israeli parliament member from the National Union party, in a statement carried by Israel Radio.

‘President Obama drew a shocking parallel between the elimination of Europe’s Jews and the suffering that the Arabs of Israel brought upon themselves when they declared war against Israel.’

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Michael Fayek, 27, a Christian and recent university graduate of Cairo’s Ain Shams University.

‘The fact that he talks about tolerance, and cited verses from the Koran and the Bible, makes me feel he is aware how people think.’

‘I admired very much the suggestion that Jews, Christians and Muslims should live together in peace.’

‘The one part I was most impressed by, is that he really supports tolerance.’

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Bulent Goksel, a seller of ‘simit,’ a bagel-like Turkish roll, got a friend to watch his cart for a few moments so he could dart into a nearby shop and watch a few minutes of the speech.

‘We in Turkey have got a really positive sense of this man,’ he said. ‘Especially compared to the previous president!’

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Professor Avraham Ben-Zvi, expert on American-Israeli relations, University of Haifa, on Israel Radio.

‘The speech was disappointing, addressing too many issues. When such high expectations are built up, one expects a founding declaration, a central thesis. This was more of a mixed salad. It touched many issues -- although elegantly, but lacked a central thesis.’

‘The first part bordered on flattery, apologetics for all the ‘white man’s sins.’ The apology was too sweeping, too long.’

‘Where Israel is concerned, there was a strict symmetry. Israel is not a single, favored son.’

‘The speech underwent polishing, retouching and tens of speechwriters. But in the end, it contained many trees but very little forest …he tried too hard.’

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Zalman Shoval, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (and currently senior aide/advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), on Israel Radio.

‘The speech was very politically correct. It was not surprising, and there was no reason for the panic that may have arisen here or there in Israel.’

‘In fact, he spoke somewhat like a preacher … about what he would like to see in the idyllic world he hopes for, mostly on Islam. One can argue about the chances of this world existing or not.’

‘Israeli governments do not make decisions based on the speeches of American statesmen but on its own considerations of what is good for it or not.’

‘There is need for an active Israeli diplomacy -- proactive, even -- to avoid reaching unnecessary confrontations.’

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Israeli parliament member Haim Oron, chairman of the Meretz party, from a circulated statement, this one from the news site Ynet.

‘The speech was characterized by inspiration, optimism and great momentum that appeared to have vanished from the area. The U.S. President’s speech was a lesson in conciliatory enlightenment, moderation and great hopes.’

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Motti Yogev, retired brigadier general and a member of the Binyamin regional council of settler communities, speaking from the settlement of Beit El, on TV Channel 1.

‘I am glad that he referred to Jewish sources, as these are the same sources that teach that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel and that it is the right of the Jews to live in all parts of it. Just as he stated that the State of Israel was not going to disappear, neither is the half-million strong Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.’

‘We must not make light of the importance of strategic agreements to Israel’s security. But we are not the 51st star on the American flag, and the Jewish settlement in the West Bank will continue in all its glory, as it is our return to the Land of Israel and indeed the security of Tel Aviv.’