THE DAILY BLADE: Deconstructing Obama’s Cairo Speech

President Barack Hussein Obama addressed an audience of 2,500 people at Cairo University for 55 minutes, fulfilling a campaign promise to deliver a major address from a Muslim country.

 

Obama’s speech was translated into 13 languages and disseminated by E-mail and Web video worldwide, in “an effort to turn technology, which has been a powerful recruiting tool for radical Islamic terrorists, to a tool of outreach and influence for the U.S.,” notes The Washington Times. Here, nine passages from the speech and what they mean in English:

 

1.I’m … proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum.”

 

This specific variation of the phrase “Peace be upon you” is used when addressing at least three people - one or more of whom is male - or when addressing a head of state. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t know Russian – and, apparently, doesn’t know anyone on her staff who knows the language, either - Obama clearly knows Arabic and its nuances. He was, after all, educated in an Indonesian school that some describe as a madrassa (third item).

 

The Hadith instructs Muslims to use this greeting only amongst themselves – and not with infidels. Al-Salaam is one of the names of Allah, so His blessing is reserved for Muslims.

 

Hmmm, maybe there is something to all that chatter about Obama reconnecting to his Muslim upbringing.

 

***

 

2. “We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world - tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. … More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims … Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.”

 

Indonesian madrassas must be teaching a different version of history than The Stiletto learned because every schoolchild in the U.S. knows that America was itself colonized, and that we never colonized the Middle East – unlike, say, England or Italy. Or is Obama using sub rosa code to characterize our years-long efforts to bring democracy and stability to Afghanistan and Iraq as a form of “occupation” and “colonialism”?

 

And if modernity is hostile to the traditions of Islam - but not to anyone else’s traditions - then common ground ends right there. Western traditions are progressive - especially as regards individual rights and freedoms - whereas Muslim traditions are regressive.

 

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3. “Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights.” 

 

Nowhere in his speech does Obama ever refer to “terrorism.” His preferred euphemism is “extremism.” Since September 11th American citizens have repeatedly been targeted by foreign-born Muslims and native-born Americans who converted to Islam. To cite but a few examples: Afzal Haq, who shot six women at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, killing five of them; Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a naturalized citizen from Iran who deliberately rammed his jeep into a group students (third item) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to “avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world”; Ali Asad Chandia and others, who formed the "Virginia jihad network"; and just a few days ago, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American-born Muslim convert who shot two soldiers at a Little Rock, AR, recruiting station - killing one of them - as payback for Muslims being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Perhaps more troubling, according to the 2007 Pew Research Center survey “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream” - the first-ever, nationwide poll of Muslim Americans - 26 percent of the 2.35 million Muslims in the U.S. believe there are circumstances in which suicide bombings are acceptable. By The Stiletto’s calculations, that’s 610,000 people living among us - the population of Charlotte, NC - who can think of a reason to justify terrorism against Americans.

 

If the average citizen is “fearful” and “suspicious” that Muslims are hostile to Americans, (s)he has ample cause.   

 

***

 

4. “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

 

But not, apparently, negative stereotypes of the United States, which you yourself continue to repeat (“Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked … led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. … I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”) As Washington Times editor emeritus Wes Pruden puts it:

 

Mr. Obama's revelation of his "inner Muslim" in Cairo reveals much about who he is. He is our first president without an instinctive appreciation of the culture, history, tradition, common law and literature whence America sprang. The genetic imprint writ large in his 43 predecessors is missing from the Obama DNA. …

 

The great Cairo grovel accomplished nothing beyond the humiliation of the president and the embarrassment of his constituents, few of whom share his need to put America on its knees before its enemies.

 

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5. “The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. “

 

Not only Obama inflated the number of Muslims in the U.S. threefold, but he also misstated their educational levels. According to that 2007 Pew Research Center survey (see above), 21 percent of U.S. Muslims never finished high school vs. 16 percent of the general population; 23 percent of U.S. Muslims finished “some” college vs. 29 percent of the general population; and 14 percent of U.S. Muslims graduated college vs. 16 percent of the general population. As for measures of economic success: just 41 percent of U.S. Muslims own their own homes vs. 68 percent of the general population, and 42 percent of U.S. Muslims described their personal finances as “excellent” or “good” vs. 49 percent of the general population.

 

And a recent Gallup study (.pdf) of 941 Muslim Americans finds that they are culturally alienated from mainstream America (second item): Compared to the other religious groups surveyed in the Gallup study (Protestants, Mormons, Catholics, Jews), Muslims are the least likely to have Internet access in their homes; the least likely to report doing or learning something interesting; the most likely to report feeling angry for “a lot of the day”; and the least likely to be registered to vote.

 

 

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6. & 7. “Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. … That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.”“[I]t is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. …”

 

When Muslims have brought lawsuits claiming infringement on their religious rights after being asked to remove their veils for security checks or drivers’ license photos, in most cases they have not found receptive judges. Further, U.S. civil and criminal courts issued rulings that place limitations on Muslim religious and cultural practices at odds with our laws and customs, including female circumcision, slavery and the right to face your accuser (last item).

 

More to the point, “practicing their religion as they see fit” violates the laws of Western nations giving women full and equal rights – not to mention violating laws against murder - and a case can be made that insistence on adherence to Sharia law in Western nations is jihad by other means. For instance, there was a brouhaha in England over a teaching assistant at the Headfield Church of England Junior School who obstinately  wore a hijab though, as Telegraph columnist Stephanie Gutmann points out, “administrators at her children's school claimed the black fabric over her face scared the children and muffled her voice.”

 

Finally, despite Obama’s belief that Muslim women “choose” to entomb themselves in layers of cloth that restrict vision (second item) - much like blinders on a horse - and make it difficult even to eat, all too often the hijab is imposed on them. And Christian women living in Muslim countries are also forced to wear the hijab, even though it is not in their religious or cultural tradition (video). The Talibanis and religious police who roam the streets do not stop to ask whether a woman whose head is uncovered is Christian or Muslim; they simply beat her to a bloody pulp - if not to death - for her “immodesty” and “impiety.”

 

***

 

8. “The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as - it is as if he has killed all mankind. And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”

 

Not only have Muslims killed innocent men, women and children, in the case of the Armenian Genocide, Ottoman Turks nearly did kill all mankind, coming close to wiping one group of Christians off the face of the earth - and any trace of their existence - in what some historians now believe is the first Muslim jihad against a Christian population in modern times.

 

For what it’s worth, Obama made three references in all to the “Holy Koran” (also: “The Holy Koran tells us: ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”) but only one reference each to the Talmud (“The Talmud tells us: ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’’) and to the Holy Bible (“The Holy Bible tells us: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of G-d.’”)

 

The Judeo-Christian passages Obama cites are explicitly about peace, whereas the passage from the Koran is open to interpretation – “knowing” someone isn’t the same as wanting to coexist peacefully with him. The Muslim religion is predicated on familiarity breeding contempt, hence Christians and Jews are regarded as infidels – an uncomfortable reality that Obama kinda, sorta acknowledged in his speech (“Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith.”). But it is not “some Muslims” that reject the validity of other faiths, it's the “Holy Koran” itself. Indonesian students - Obama among them – are taught to recite the Koran (in Arabic) by heart. He knows as well as his audience that the Koran is infused with intolerance towards “nonbelievers” and “pagans.”

 

***

 

9. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. … People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. … The richness of religious diversity must be upheld - whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.”

 

What about Christians living in Muslim countries - and, conversely, Muslims living in Western countries? Turkey, for one, considers conversion from Islam to Christianity a criminal act; when a British-born Pakistani girl converted to Christianity, she had to go into hiding because she feared being murdered by her own family; and Saudi Arabia confiscates bibles from travelers upon arrival on its soil (Christians are not even permitted to pray in private with their own bibles), and arrests Christians for proselytizing if they discuss their religion. In fact, Muslim violence is driving Christians out of the Holy Land, and by one estimate they will be “extinct” in less than 60 years.

 

***

 

Columnist Victor Davis Hanson thinks Obama “should be congratulated for expressing a desire for peace and for gently reminding the Muslim world of the way to reform, even if he did so while inflating Western sins” but notes: 
 

[T]he problem with such moral equivalence is that it equates things that are, well, not equal — and therefore ends up not being moral at all.

To pull it off, one must distort both the past and the present for the presumed higher good of getting along.

 

Obama’s speech was riddled with distortions - if not outright lies - through and through.

 

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  • June 6, 2009 Tomek wrote:
    Jesus Christ (irony...), If you're going to write something this sh***y, please actually WATCH/read his speech. You clearly only read the excerpts, as his speech says the EXACT same thing "As must I defend negative stereotypes of America" that you claim he does not.

    Please put your heart in this and try and work on thinking a little about it.

    Your post is exactly what makes me sad.



    :(.
    :'(.
    Reply to this
  • June 6, 2009 Tomek wrote:
    I mean, honestly, it's so thick of crap.

    "The great Cairo grovel accomplished nothing beyond the humiliation of the president and the embarrassment of his constituents, few of whom share his need to put America on its knees before its enemies." [yes I realize that's a quote from washington post/ not your article, but you cite it]

    ^That's disgusting. You disgust me. To agree with the idea that we are "groveling before our enemies" by initiating in evaluating issues, and really thinking about why we are were we are - it's just depressing. Honestly, it's a joke. Where do you expect we can get with that closed of a mind?
    Reply to this
  • June 6, 2009 Anonymous wrote:
    Wow! Sad for the US. Sad for Israel. May God have mercy on all.
    Reply to this
  • June 6, 2009 Muhammad wrote:
    Oh dear. This blog almost came off as being funny (because it is funny when someone attempts to assert their confidence in a subject--in this case, religion, when their sources come from politically or ideologically charged individuals), but inevitably soured as an attempt to "deconstruct" President Obama's speech in Cairo turned rapidly into an ill disguised jab at Islam. I really don't mind reading criticism on Islam, or on Muslims, but you can, at the very least, be honest to your readers. If you wanted to demonstrate the imbecile nature of Muslims (who more often feel angry, don't learn or do something interesting, or are poorer than the general populous) then you could have easily done so with the title "Reasons to [insert verb] Muslims."

    Instead of focusing on the political/geopolitical consequences of the speech, impact, affects, and such, instead, you were more concerned with educating your readers...about what? "Hidden messages" in Islam? Or that Muslims have killed many non-muslims, and therefore, should be feared? Or that when Obama referred to Islam's tolerance (an obvious connection to the Andalusian time period, where even gay men and women roamed the streets unharmed and protected), in a handful of the over 50 Muslim Majority nations in the world, there isn't so much tolerance? Or hey-- how about that there have been a few Muslims, in the United States itself, who kill Americans to avenge the suffering of their overseas kind. Yeah!

    Or wait a second, maybe the Holy Koran (pronounced, and most correctly spelled as Qur'an, but I don't suspect that you know Arabic) infuses its adherents with anti-Semitic (despite Arab's being Semites, right?), or anti Christian or Judaic (despite the Prophet establishing a bond with the Christian king in Abyssinia, right? Not to mention all of the verses that encourage participation in a widely non-Muslim world, right? But you wont know that, because you don't really know about Islam, do you? Except, say, what you may find on Wikipedia, or in a "novel" by Daniel Pipes...right?)...hmm?

    I'm so sorry, but I think that I'll have to call it--your post simply reeks of ethnocentric misinformation.

    Now, I'm all for taking criticism (I'll be the first to say that I don't know everything), and I can hear religious criticism without feeling the need to blow myself up, but at least keep it honest.

    Also, I'm not sure if you have ever taken a course in logic (maybe you should?), but there is something called the principle of charity. Now that I've piqued your curiosity, look it up, and I expect that the next "deconstruction" or whateveryoucallit, of a speech that it blogged here, will use the principle in order to stay from misinforming not only yourself, but also, and most importantly, the reader--especially when the author (or orator) of said deconstructed speech, in not available to respond!

    Thank you for your time, and I meant this response in good faith and good humor!

    -Muhammad

    PS: Don't use Wiki :(
    Reply to this
    1. June 16, 2009 The Stiletto wrote:
      To Muhammad and others who left a comment when this was posted:  Your comments were flagged as spam by the blog host and The Stiletto just found them all this evening. The Stiletto is going to post them all - whether they agree with her post or not. The Stiletto believes in the First Amendment and you are all entitled to your say.
      Reply to this
  • June 7, 2009 Dustin wrote:
    Why are you so scared? Is it because you have bought into all the lies and propaganda that Washington has been spewing out for years and can't think enough for yourself to maybe think peace may be possible? Or is because in reality you are just as intolerant as the "Muslim extremists"?
    Reply to this
    1. June 7, 2009 The Stiletto wrote:
      The Stiletto's parents are Christians who grew up in a Muslim country. They know first-hand what happens to Christian populations in the Middle East with the unholy union of Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism. They came to this country to have and raise their children in the hope that its Judeo-Christian foundations would protect them against violence against Christians - in one case, genocidal violence.

      And lo, these many years later, they find efforts to incorporate Sharia law into Western societies worldwide, and a U.S. president who will do nothing to stop it here even after seeing the turmoil caused in England, France, Germany and other European nations.

      Had The Stiletto grown up in the Muslim country her parents fled, she would be in a chador by now (though I am not Muslim) because not to wear one would be to risk my life every time she left the house, and she  would not have been likely to get an advanced degree and/or to work out of the home.  It's easy for you to bat around words like "intolerance" because you have not been the victim of it. The Stiletto's family has, and so she will do everything she can to sound the alarm and to wake the oblivious or politically correct (usually one and the same) up to the real and gathering danger of the fall of Western civilization and the freedoms we enjoy.


      Reply to this
  • June 7, 2009 World Peace wrote:
    Ok..No comments a day after this was posted?

    I find that very hard to beleive. Obviously this board is a little one sided..

    I don't see how you can break down something like this to make it out to seem evil..This man is trying his hardest and is reaching out, making the first step, towards peace with the middle east. The first president in my lifetime to do this.. He is probably going against a lot of his colleags and just average people who want nothing to do with islam and would rather just nuke it and be done with it.

    What does the author of this "blog" want? More war?

    Seriously. Grow up. If you want war so bad, why don't you go sign up for the army and die for something you may not even believe in.

    Reply to this
  • June 7, 2009 Austin wrote:
    You have very interesting interpretations of history and contemporary realities. Not suggesting that they are wrong, just that they--along with most of the blogosphere--are indicative how utterly useless rationality and empiricism has become (has always been?) for resolving contemporary issues.

    On place were I will take issue with you is your points on American history and colonialism. First, unless one has Native American ancestry I don't think the pronoun "we" is appropriate for discussing the colonization of the America's. The United States as a nation and a state, despite escaping being a colony of Great Britain, was still a nation of colonizers. Although you raise a valid (and IMO correct) point on how, because of its history, as a colony America has been reluctant to take on colonies or anything at all like them with a few notable exceptions (Philippines, etc). I would argue that despite this, the US has had no qualms supporting colonizers in many cases--but this has nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Now this all leads into your next proposition that Obama was subtly caricaturing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as colonial wars by talking about a painful colonial history. I dispute this claim on several levels. First, personally I didn't read it that way at all, as a student of history, I thought it was quite obvious that he was referring to historical European colonialism.

    Now let us consider his audience, while many may consider the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as colonialist or imperialist moves, they are also much more intimately aware of the actual colonial history than we Americans are, and I think that most got the point.

    However people will always interpret things as they want to, and your argument still could stand that the reference was put in there to draw the inferences you have proposed. It would also be especially easy to link colonialism with Israel, I personally consider Israel an example of settler colonialism. This is why I think this was not their aim:

    Obama and his team obviously spent weeks preparing this speech, with the goal of having it appeal to both the Muslim community and his consituents back home--including strong supporters of Israel. Even if Obama secretly despises Israel (very unlikely, although I think he does find the Israeli-right at least unreasonable), he obviously recognizes the need to hide this very, very well. Why would he spend so much time in the rest of the speech stating the Israeli narrative, and making other statements that even AIPAC have lauded if he was going to slip up and put in an allusion that Israel and the US are to blame for all the Middle East's problems? While it is possible for this interpretation to be made, it is impossible to do more than try to control how an audience will receive something.

    Your first part on the conjugation of the greeting he used was very appreciated. Much closer to the Derridean deconstruction I expected when I clicked the link.
    Reply to this
    1. June 7, 2009 The Stiletto wrote:
      First off, there is some question about how "native" Native Americans are. They too migrated to the New World as it is generally accepted that humans originated in Africa, spread out to the Middle and Near East and then to Asia and Europe. The only claim Native Americans can make is "we were here first." 

      The British, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonized this land, well before we rebelled against the British and won our independence. They either formed alliances with or killed any Native Americans they encountered. Later, when these nations battled each other to control more land than they had claimed for their respective monarchs, they used various Native American tribes as allies and proxies. Many Native Americans died in these wars before the "United States of America" existed - and those who had thrown their lot in with the British, for instance, were on the losing side of the war. To the victor go the spoils. Ditto Mexico's loss of what is now the American Southwest. The Native Americans got caught in the middle of larger, more powerful and technologically advanced forces. That is not to say that The Stiletto does not believe Native Americans were also the victims of genocide. And both Europe and the U.S. bear the responsibility and shame of this.

      The U.S. - the government, the corporate sector and individual citizens - donated more money after the Indonesian tsunami than all other nations combined; we give more aid to Egypt and other impoverished Middle Eastern nations than any other country); and we fought a war to stop what President Clinton deemed to be ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Bosnia - the only president, BTW, ever to act militarily to stop what he believed to be a genocide. All other presidents before and since just wrung their hands and made sympathetic noises. The U.S. has NOTHING to apologize for and so Obama had to assume the sins of European colonialism just so he could find something to apologize for.

      The Stiletto deliberately steered clear of Israel and the settlements in her analysis - there are many, many other pudits and bloggers who covered that ground. The Stiletto instead wanted to speak to the plight of ethnic Christian minorities in the Middle East who would be stunned to find that they live amongst religiously "tolerant" people - and saddened to find a U.S. president pushing this fiction.

      Reply to this
  • June 7, 2009 Dan wrote:
    While agree with most of this column, I can't get past "hence Christians and Jews are regarded as infidels". This is a common misconception. Jesus is a large part of Muslim faith, even meeting them at the gates when Muslims enter heaven. It is unfortunately only the misinformed who think Christians and Jews are "infidels".
    Reply to this
    1. June 8, 2009 The Stiletto wrote:
      Unless you believe there is one G-d (Allah) and that Mohammad is his messenger, you are an infidel. If Christians are not regarded as infidels by the Saudis, why are their bibles confiscated upon arrival? Why are there no churches in Saudi Arabia? Where is the "tolerance" our deluded or deliberately obtuse president mentioned?
      Reply to this
  • June 7, 2009 Andy wrote:
    What an ignorant post!
    Reply to this
  • June 8, 2009 David wrote:
    Excellent Article. Thanks
    Reply to this
  • June 8, 2009 Jbone wrote:
    hey morons... Religion isnt the problem. Rich countries don't go crazy like poor ones (no matter what stupid bullcrap they believe). its simple. Where theres money... there will be a stabler government. Where there is education... there will be stabler government. Our country owes alot of the advances in moralty to the advances is technology... better at colving crimes, with forensics and video cameras to watch people and places. These people are born just like you or I. If any of you had been adopted by these muslim extremist... than you would be a terrorist too. Lets be modern in our thinking, pleeeeeease? its simple... if the people in the middle east had the technology and resources we had... theyd interpret the koran or whatever bullcrap religious philosophy that wasnt so extreme. Notice that the terrorist normally come from terrible backgrounds and are brainwashed? thats why they are murders, because they dont know any better than you would if you were born into the same situation. They need books, they need money, they need help. and let me be clear about what is NOT helping... debating about how the koran is more violent than the bible, or how middle eastern people are inherently more evil than the standard white dude in the U.S. assuming everything in this article is true... this dude is still a moron cuz he jus sounds like hes whining like a 4 yr old. Boo Hoo, Mccain isnt president, why dont we all make a fuss. Obama cant do sh*t... especially with just words. What was he suppose to say thats so perfect? what the big solution to all this? nuke the whole world and declare the let jesus come down and judge the living and the dead? get over it. everybody knows what the problem is. poor people, who in an environment like they are in, and uneducated are going to be like this. I get it, their governments suck, the taliban sucks, theres so many crappy people out there... the truth is none of us in the US truly cares about anyone else. There could be people starving in your own country and as long as your rich and safe, you wouldnt care. You all jus come out to pretend like you are so intelligent but dont provide what should be said and done to help the world. you guys arent any better than hitler cuz none of you would truly care if everyone in the world was starving, as long as people here can have million dollar cars.
    Reply to this
  • September 13, 2012 Dylan S wrote:
    Groveling before the Muslim world....pathetic
    Reply to this

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