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June 3rd, 2009
09:43 PM ET

What the President SHOULD say in Cairo

Arsalan Iftikhar | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Founder, TheMuslimGuy.com

Today, President Obama will be in Cairo, Egypt where he will give his first major address to the Muslim world.

President Obama should use his speech to show American respect for Muslims worldwide - from the streets of Cairo to the streets of Chicago.

"I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek his majesty's counsel and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East," President Obama said today from Saudi Arabia, his first stop on a five-day tour of the Middle East and Europe.

During a January 2009 television interview with Al-Arabiya network channel, President Obama said that it was, "My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect…I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries…"

But President Obama has his work cut out for him, both at home and abroad.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey suggests that “more than two in five Americans, or 46 percent, have an unfavorable opinion of Muslim countries”. That’s up nearly five percent from 2002. American public opinion towards Islam and Muslims since 9/11 shows the magnitude of the daunting diplomatic task in front of President Barack Obama in the Muslim world.

– For example, a 2004 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Poll found that almost 4 in 10 Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam and 46 percent believes that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. And a March 2005 ABC News Poll found that more than one-third of Americans believe that mainstream Islam encourages violence.

In this post-9/11 America, many Americans came to believe that domestic policy toward tens of millions of American Muslims and Arabs should have been changed.

A December 2004 public opinion poll conducted by Cornell University found that about 44 percent of Americans said that they believe that “some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim-Americans…”

Similarly, 26 percent of Americans said that thought American mosques should have been closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies; and more than 29 percent of Americans agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should have been keeping tabs on Muslim civic and volunteer organizations.

The sheer hysteria of this paranoia came to light when a July 2005 USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans were in favor of “requiring all Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes” and 46 percent of Americans who favored “requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID…”

With more than 7 million American Muslims living in the United States today, President Obama must reaffirm that Americans respect Muslims worldwide, and at home.

Editor’s Note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of http://www.TheMuslimGuy.com and is a contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Mssylady

    Wow! Our president has a HUGE job and he did it successfully. He mentionioned that Americans need to respect Muslims like any other religion. 911 was not caused by all muslims, just as slavery wasn't caused by all white people. President Obama offered the olive brance to Muslims letting them know we as a country do not hate all Muslims. Our president went to them to tell them how America feels and what could be expected from Americans. We have an awesome and intelligent president who really wants this world to be a better place. President Obama has his hands full, but he is bringing this bull down by the horns. Now we just need Americans to help him.

    June 4, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    Obama has his work cut out for him on this one. Communication, though, goes 2 ways – the Muslims need to talk to us as well and display vocally that they condemn and abhor the actions of extremists of their faith. There would be a more sympathetic outlook on the Muslim world if they denounced each act of violence attributable to Muslim extremists; and that voice of respect would strengthen.

    June 3, 2009 at 9:53 pm |