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Obama in the Muslim World

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
May 31, 2009
Washington Post


For the Cairo speech to be successful, President Obama will need to include three elements in addition to the themes of respect and tolerance for Islam, Muslims and Arabs that he has consistently emphasized since his inauguration: First, he will have to make a strong statement about the Arab-Israeli conflict and especially acknowledge that Palestinian claims for justice and statehood are legitimate as well as consistent with American interests. Second, Obama should make clear that he rejects those voices that claim Muslims are not ready for democracy. It will not be lost on anyone that the president is putting Arab leaders on notice that democratic change remains on Washington's agenda, though he does not seek to impose it at the end of a tank. Finally, Obama must emphasize that by closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, rescinding the previous administration's legal rationale for the use of torture and restoring the balance between the branches of government, the United States is returning to its ideals. This will reaffirm for many Muslims that America is a society built on the deeply attractive principles of equality, freedom and the rule of law.

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