In his reaction to President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, the head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Meshaal appears to have adopted the “deeds not words” approach taken by global Muslim Brotherhood leaders Youssef Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan as discussed in yesterdays post. According to a report by the left-wing news portal IPS:
The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, gave a qualified welcome here Thursday to the big speech that Pres. Barack Obama addressed to the Muslim world in Cairo. “The speech was cleverly written in the way it addressed the Muslim world… and in the way it showed respect to the Muslim heritage,” Meshaal told IPS in an exclusive interview. “But I think it’s not enough. What’s needed are deeds, actions on the ground, and a change of policies.” … In the Cairo speech, Obama restated the three preconditions that Pres. George W. Bush and his allies in the international “Quartet” defined in 2006 for Hamas, before any members of the Quartet – the U.S. European Union, United Nations and Russia – would agree to deal with it. Meshaal expressed his displeasure with that part of Obama’s speech, noting that in the speech Obama also said he was ready to start talks with Iran, “without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect”. “Why is Obama ready to deal with Iran without preconditions, but not us?” Meshaal asked. “Obama is using some new words in his rhetoric, somewhat different from what we heard from Bush, but under no circumstances will preconditions be acceptable to us.”…In his reaction to Obama’s speech, Meshaal referred to the U.S.’s role in this intervention, saying, “Rather than sweet words from President Obama on democratisation, we’d rather see the United States start to respect the results of democratic elections that have already been held. And rather than talk about democratisation and human rights in the Arab world, we’d rather see the removal of Gen. Dayton, who’s building a police state there in the West Bank.”In his reaction to Obama’s speech, Meshaal welcomed the change from the rhetoric used by Pres. Bush – though he indicated it was not as far-reaching a change as he would have wished. But he also stressed that rhetorical change is not, on its own, nearly enough….”Obama talked about the Palestinian state, but not its borders,” he said. “He didn’t mention whether it should comprise all the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, or just part of it, as Israel demands…” “Yes, he spoke of an end to Israel’s continuing settlement activity; but can he really get them to stop? Without addressing these issues, the speech remains rhetoric, not so very different from his predecessor’s.”
Hamas political adviser Ahmed Youssef was reported to have also criticized Obama’s statements on the right of Israel to exist also calling the speech “historic”:
Ahmed Youssef, the deputy foreign minister in the Hamas government in Gaza, said, “He points to the right of Israel to exist, but what about the refugees and their right of return?”…“As a legal specialist, he should know people are under occupation and cannot recognize the state while they are under occupation, only afterwards,” said Mr. Youssef of Hamas. “Why put pressure on Arabs and Muslims to recognize Israel while it is not recognizing our existence?” But Israelis and Palestinians also stepped back from their own concerns and said they understood the broader significance of the speech. Even Mr. Youssef hailed the speech as historic.
The same report cited a Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood official’s remarks disavowing any connection to the Holocaust, also a part of the Obama speech:
…in Jordan, Rohile Gharaibeh, deputy secretary general for the Islamic Action Front, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejected any reference to the Holocaust. “The Holocaust was not the doing of the Muslims, it was the Europeans, and it should not come at the cost of the Palestinian people or the Arabs and Muslims,” he said.
U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders continued to weigh in with praise for the speech. According to a local newspaper, the leader of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) said the address was weaved “masterfully”:
Mujeeb Cheema of Tulsa, the executive director of the North American Islamic Trust, said Obama was “candid, substantive and truthful, and I commend him.” “He weaved his seven-item analysis masterfully into a broadly defined objectives plan. “The Muslim world would react positively to it, but wonder if the president will direct his administration’s policies to that plan, and more importantly, would the political expediency of our politicians and their funders muster the requisite goodwill for this plan’s implementation.”
NAIT is the endowment arm of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and is part of the structure of the Islamic Society of North America.
President Obama’s address to the Muslim World on June 4 from Cairo was truly transformative in intent and effect. It was not a policy speech and did not seek to outline policy initiatives. It was a philosophical attempt to diffuse the mutual distrust and animus that undergirds U.S. relations with the Muslim World. Even though it was billed as a speech to Muslims, it was readily apparent that it addressed both the Islamic World and the Western World. President Obama not only invited Muslims to rise above prejudice and take a second look at America, but also demonstrated to Americans and the rest of the world how to abandon jaundiced eyes and see Islam and Muslims as they really are and not how they are projected in popular discourses. Never has an American President spoken with such eloquence, compassion, understanding and empathy to the Muslim World. There is no doubt that Obama gets the Muslim World. It is also obvious from the responses from around the world that except for some Israelis and its supporters and Al Qaeda, President Obama’s words resonated profoundly with Muslim and non-Muslim audiences everywhere.
Unlike the other Brotherhood leaders, Dr. Khan appeared to support President Obama’s statements on U.S. support for Israel:
President Obama’s speech was comprehensive and brutally honest except when he spoke about America’s support for democracy. Even now America is aligned with dictators and monarchs and opposes elected governments and groups in Iran, Gaza and Lebanon. He spoke about the dangers of extremist violence, about Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Arab-Israeli conflict, about religious tolerance and religious freedoms, about gender equality and development. President Obama’s intellectual posture was very sophisticated and subtle. He went far beyond any American President in making concessions to Muslims without ever abandoning traditional American foreign policy values. For example he recognized that the “situation of the Palestinian people was intolerable” and made an unprecedented promise that “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” But he also firmly reiterated that America’s bond with Israel was “unbreakable” and that aspirations for a Jewish homeland were “undeniable”. President Obama has found the language to transcend the hitherto zero sum conundrum of Israeli-Palestinian issue. If he can translate this into policy, then perhaps we can finally witness the emergence of an independent Palestinian nation thriving side by side with a secure Israel.
He went on, however, to modify this support to some degree by stating:
Finally, the continued misery of over three million Palestinians under Israeli military occupation of West Bank and blockade of Gaza makes it impossible for Muslims to reconcile their anger towards the U.S. who they see as the primary and sole sponsor of Israel.
Dr. Khan concluded his remarks by saying that as a result of the speech, he now feels that President Obama is his “Amir” (leader):
One element of the discourse was Obama’s portrayal of himself as a man comfortable with faith. He quoted from the Qur’an, the Torah and the Bible, and this will go far in undoing the widely held Muslim perception of America as a God-less materialist society….Clearly there are many reasons why many Muslims are miserable. They include economic underdevelopment, absence of democracy, systematic human rights abuses by Muslim regimes, Muslim on Muslim violence and intolerance. Their leaders, who lack vision, integrity and purpose, have long abandoned Muslims. President Obama through this speech may not have conquered Muslim hearts and minds, but he certainly has ignited hope of a peaceful and dignified future. As an American Muslim, as I listened to President Obama today, I truly felt that he was my Amir (leader). Indeed, no leader has inspired so much confidence in the future, and so much pride in America as has Barrack Hussein Obama.