The Washington Post
When President Obama offered to reach out to the Muslim world for the mutual interest of both parties, he was saying nothing new. The West and the Arab oil-producing nations have teetered on an uneasy alliance for decades, the one depending on the other. As much as we grumble about being dependent on Arab oil, it serves our mutual interest to keep a steady flow of fuel coming our way and a glut of dollars in return. But when he added "mutual respect," Obama supplied a key missing piece, one that Muslims have longed for.
No doubt it's because of his diverse background - and in no small part because he had to forge an identity in the black community - that Obama knows what respect means to outcasts and the down-trodden. In a way, it's everything. The Muslim world, despite its windfall oil profits, feels like one of the great losers in the march of history. Muslims dwell on the glory days of Sunni culture, which kept science, mathematics, and philosophy alive while that knowledge was lost in Europe during the Middle Ages. The Ottoman Empire once embraced almost the entire Mediterranean basin and marched to the gates of Vienna. When World War I left Islamic power in ashes, a decline in confidence set in that has been deeply corrosive to Muslim identity and deeply humiliating, too.
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