- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Muslims in Syria Like Obama's Tone But Want New Policy

New America Media, News Report, Shane Bauer Posted: Jun 04, 2009

DAMASCUS, Syria--Muslim shopkeepers, activists, and analysts in Damascus who watched Obamas speech Thursday appreciated what they saw as a clear change in the U.S. attitude toward the Muslim world. But most are skeptical, saying they want a fundamental shift in American policy, not just a shift in rhetoric.

Many on the streets of the Syrian capital said they appreciated Obamas citations of the Quran, which met with applause from his audience at Cairo University in Egypt, and his emphasis on mutual understanding. Many however, were turned off by his reiteration of the U.S. unbreakable bond with Israel.

This was an important step toward real relations between American and the Muslim world, said Dr. Salah Kustaro, the general director of the Abu Nour mosque in Syria. When Obama translated Quranic verses, it was a major sign that his administration was serious.

He agrees with Obama that Islamic extremism needs to be eradicated, but extremism isnt crushed by force. It is ended by encouraging moderate sheikhs and by ending occupations, he said, referring to those in Iraq and Palestine.

A joint statement issued by Syrian-based Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, wrote off the speech completely, saying, "Obama's speech is an attempt to mislead people and create more illusions to improve America's aggressive image in the Arab and Islamic world.

Others were reassuredif only slightlyabout Obamas assertion that the situation in Palestine is intolerable. Obama said the Palestinians endure the daily humiliationslarge and smallthat come with occupationAmerica will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

This is definitely a new language weve never heard before, said Sami Moubayed, Syrian analyst and editor of Forward magazine. He says Obamas insistence that the U.S. bonds with Israel are unbreakable was to be expected. This has been Americas rhetoric since 1948, he said. What is new is the message of dialogue, respect, and trying very hard to ally themselves with the Arab and Muslim street.

In an Islamic bookstore near the Abu Nour mosque, Asad Khawajikiya, 33, echoed distrust common on the streets of Damascus. Bushs strategy was through war; Obamas is through dialogue, but the goal is the same: to control the Arab and Muslim world," he said. "Obama is just changing the style.

Obama devoted a portion of his speech to addressing womens rights as well as western misunderstandings about Muslim women. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, he said. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equalityI do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

Dr. Maya Alrahabi, president of the Syria Committee for Supporting Womens Issues, says she was agitated by Obamas words. I didnt find anything new, she said. These are the same words that have been coming from the U.S. for years. American policies still oppress women. I dont deny that women live under repressive circumstances in all Arab countries, but its not as bad as living under military occupation like in Iraq and Palestine.

She believes the U.S. support for undemocratic regimes directly impacts the rights of women. If Obama wants to support women in the Middle East he should pull his military in the region and stop supporting dictatorships, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt that oppress women," Alrahabi said. "How can he talk about womens rights while he is speaking as a guest of the Mubarak regime, who is denying human rights to his own people in Egypt, men and women alike?

Abdul Kareem Marideen, 33, a seller of Islamic texts, says Obama should follow up his speech with practical changes. He cited Obamas commitment to relax rules on charitable giving as a good place to start. In his speech, Obama said, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to work with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat, --alms giving required in Islam.

Marideeni says if he means it, he should reverse the sentences of five men convicted in the United States last November for allegedly financing terrorist organizations. The men ran the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the largest Muslim charity organization in the country, and were accused of financing Hamas, listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. Their organization gave more than $12 million to Palestinian schools and charities controlled by Hamas, the democratically elected party that governs the Gaza strip.

Muslims need to be able to send money to their families and those in need without fearing reprisal, Marideeni said.

In a falafel shop decorated with posters of the man who famously threw shoes at George Bush in his last visit to Iraq, Iraqi shop owner, Slah Abdul Razaq, fears that Obama will be restricted by internal and international pressures from enacting real change with the Muslim world. His words are reasonable, he said. They arent threats like Bushs. If his actions meet his rhetoric, then we will be off to a good start.

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011