Tuesday, January 27, 2009

President Obama Sends Message to Muslims

US president Barack Obama presented a humble and conciliatory face of America to the Islamic world in the first formal interview since he assumedoffice, stressing his own Muslim ties and hopes for a Palestinian state, and avoiding a belligerent tone — even when asked if America could “live with” an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Network on Monday was a dramatic piece of public diplomacy aimed at capitalizing on the new American president’s international popularity, though it balanced America’s traditional commitment to Israel, whose security Obama called “paramount”.

“I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript. “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.”

The Al Arabiya interview, directed squarely at Muslims around the world, revived a vision of personal, symbolic international change that was in the air when Obama — with his far-flung family members, and complicated story — launched his campaign. It was a vision, and an aspect of his story, that the candidate buried when, in 2007, was forced to combat whispering campaigns about his own faith.

But by giving his first interview to the Arabic network, Obama signalled his continuing belief in his personal power as a symbol of America against the temptations of Islamic militancy.
“We sometimes make mistakes — we have not been perfect,” Obama said, exuding confidence that Americans would restore the same respect and partnership they had with Muslim world years ago.

The occasion for this interview was the departure of Obama’s special envoy, George Mitchell, to the Middle East. “What I told him is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating — in the past on some of these issues — and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved,” Obama said.

“What we want to do is to listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years. And I think if we do that, then there’s a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs,” he said.

It's A New Day !