[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/04/muslim.reaction/art.obama.tv.afp.gi.jpg caption="Palestinians in East Jerusalam watch President Obama's speech at an electronics shop."]
Fawaz A. Gerges
In a dramatic initiative, President Barack Obama has sought to reframe and shift the Middle East debate away from conflict and war to cooperation and partnership. His choice of Cairo as the location of this initiative, and his recognition of the Palestinians’ plight, have already led some within the Muslim community to sense a powerful change in the US’s attitude to Muslims. This change may even win over more mainstream Islamists and former Jihadis and associates of Osama bin Laden provided the momentum of goodwill created by the rhetoric is built upon and not allowed to fizzle out.
Obama’s speech in Cairo offered a powerful contrarian paradigm to that of bin Laden and reminded his Muslim audience that the relationship between Islam and the Christian West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, not just conflict and religious war.
Unlike his preaching predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama fully understands that the raging battle between the US and Al Qaeda’s transnational jihadis can’t be won on the battlefield. In the eyes of the world, particularly Islam, America lost its moral compass and the world’s hearts and minds. Al Qaeda’s war paradigm, if not its terrorist tactics, gained momentum and credibility all over Muslim lands. Opinion polls showed that large majorities of Muslims believed that the US was waging a war against their culture and religion, and that the US was trying to subjugate their people.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with