The Crescent Report

November 11, 2010

To U.S. Muslims, it’s just words

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 11:04 am

Introduction: “There’s a growing consensus among Muslims both at home and abroad”, said President Obama. Talks north, but walks south. Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the day: Mr. President, we know you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?

Same old speech

To U.S. Muslims, it’s just words

President Obama’s speech in Indonesia did little to inspire Muslims back home. Their overwhelming response to his remarks on Wednesday: It was a nice gesture, but we weren’t impressed.

Using a tone reminiscent of the mutual respect and understanding he used in his Cairo speech to Muslims, Obama laid out his vision of a genial relationship he hopes for the United States to have with Muslim countries.

“We always appreciate it when the president tries to make a positive effort to reach out to the Muslim world,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“He’s a good communicator. No one gives a better speech than the president — no one can deny that he gives an excellent speech,” said Mahdi Bray, executive director of Muslim American Society.

But the compliments stopped there.

Directors of four groups representing Muslims — the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim American Society — all expressed to POLITICO that they were disappointed with the progress the Obama administration has made to address the concerns of Muslim-American communities.

“We just wish the rhetoric would turn into policy that could have a positive impact,” said Hooper, who said Obama’s speech in Indonesia was one he had “seen before in Istanbul and Cairo.”

Muslim Americans “want the administration to push for more progress,” and they are seeing a gap between what Obama has accomplished so far and the promises he made during the campaign, said Alejandro Beutel, a government liaison at the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Obama’s Muslim critics cited the presence of troops in Afghanistan, the failure to shut down Guantanamo Bay, a sub-par effort to protect Muslim-Americans’ civil rights, and the country’s ambivalent role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as areas Obama hasn’t met his objectives.

“There have been no serious dialogues on these concerns by members of the administration,” Bray said. “The rhetoric doesn’t meet the domestic or global realities.”

He added that Obama has also fallen short in taking appropriate actions at home. “He attended a mosque in Cairo, one in Istanbul, one in Asia. He’s attended churches and synagogues — but he’s yet to go to a mosque less than 30 blocks from the White House,” Bray said, referring to the Islamic Center in Washington. “Even Bush visited the Islamic Center soon after 9/11. This was probably Bush’s finest hour, and Obama’s lack of symbolic gesture has not been lost.”

Sarah Thompson, communications director of the Islamic Society of North America, empathized with the White House and said the Muslim community is not unaware of resistance the administration faces.

“Extremists, far-right political figures and people in the media … have a campaign against Obama the Muslim sympathizer, ” Thompson said. “There are some extremely well-funded, extremely far-right campaigns mobilizing against Muslims, and what people hear the most is what they’re going to believe.”

The challenge for Obama and his administration, she suggested, will be to clarify the distinction between terrorists others of Muslim background.

“People acting on behalf of Al Qaeda are deranged, deluded individuals that have no right to act on behalf of any religion, and have no right to call themselves a part of any religion — certainly not Islam,” Thompson said, acknowledging that Obama had highlighted this sentiment in his speech in Indonesia.

While the groups’ spokespeople agreed that traveling around the world holds benefits for the United States, some of them questioned whether the timing of the trip was a sound strategic move.

“It seems as if our president has adopted a ‘philosopher king’ kind of approach,” Bray said. “People are looking for a more hands-on, direct approach from their president, but Obama isn’t giving the impression to the American people — be it Muslims or non-Muslims — that he is really engaged.”

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: