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How Obama Should Speak to the Muslim World

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
June 1, 2009
Wall Street Journal


The speech should be about freedom and the future: about the need for Muslim societies to open up so that every citizen can contribute his and especially her talents. Political, social, and gender limitations are preventing these societies and the people in them from realizing their God-given abilities. He should declare our complete belief in political freedom, democracy, and the equality of all citizens and of men and women. The President should say that America is a land of complete religious freedom - including for Muslims, who are thriving in the United States. He might even give some statistics about the growth, educational levels, and prosperity of this religious community - all because America is an open society with a Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and absolutely equal treatment of all religions. There are no Muslim ghettos in the US. Most Muslims know this, so it will resonate.

The key points are to defend America, and not to appease; to make it clear that we will defend ourselves and our values, and do not see them as being in conflict with Islam. This requires some criticism of Islamic extremists and some criticism of Jew-hatred. And he should not adopt the view that the world's troubles and those of Islamic countries are bound up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Probably the single worst thing he could do is buy into that false line of reasoning. He should not pander. He should not apologize for our country. He should not invent or massively exaggerate the contribution of the "Muslim community" to America. In fact the whole point is that we believe in individual freedom not group identity, so we free individuals -including those whose religion is Islam-to make a better life for themselves, their families, and our society.

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