What do you do when you have no policy, but want to appear as if you do? In the case of Barack Obama, the answer is simple: you go around the world making speeches about your “personal journey”.
The latest example came when Mr Obama presented his “address to the Muslim world” to an invited audience of 2,500 officials at Cairo University. The exercise was a masterpiece of equivocation and naivety. The President said he was seeking “a new beginning between the US and Muslims around the world”. This implied that “Muslims around the world” represent a single monolithic bloc – precisely the claim made by people like Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who believe that all Muslims belong to a single community, the “ummah”, set apart from, and in conflict with, the rest of humanity.
Mr Obama ignored the fact that what he calls the “Muslim world” consists of 57 countries with Muslim majorities and a further 60 countries – including America and Europe – where Muslims represent substantial minorities. Trying to press a fifth of humanity into a single “ghetto” based on their religion is an exercise worthy of ideologues, not the leader of a major democracy.
Mr Obama##s mea culpa extended beyond the short span of US history. He appropriated the guilt for ancient wars between Islam and Christendom, Western colonialism and America##s support for despotic regimes during the Cold War. Then came the flattering narrative about Islam##s place in history: ignoring the role of Greece, China, India and pre-Islamic Persia, he credited Islam with having invented modern medicine, algebra, navigation and even the use of pens and printing. Believing that flattery will get you anywhere, he put the number of Muslim Americans at seven million, when the total is not even half that number, promoting Islam to America##s largest religion after Christianity.
The President promised to help change the US tax system to allow Muslims to pay zakat, the sharia tax, and threatened to prosecute those who do not allow Muslim women to cover their hair, despite the fact that this “hijab” is a political prop invented by radicals in the 1970s. As if he did not have enough on his plate, Mr Obama insisted that fighting “negative stereotypes of Islam” was “one of my duties as President of the United States”. However, there was no threat to prosecute those who force the hijab on Muslim women through intimidation, blackmail and physical violence, nor any mention of the abominable treatment of Muslim women, including such horrors as “honour-killing”. The best he could do was this platitude: “Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.”
Having abandoned President Bush##s support for democratic movements in the Middle East, Mr Obama said: “No system of government can or should be imposed on one nation by another.” He made no mention of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Muslim countries, and offered no support to those fighting for gender equality, independent trade unions and ethnic and religious minorities.
Buried within the text, possibly in the hope that few would notice, was an effective acceptance of Iran##s nuclear ambitions: “No single nation should pick and choose which nations should hold nuclear weapons.” Mr Obama did warn that an Iranian bomb could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. However, the Cairo speech did not include the threat of action against the Islamic Republic – not even sanctions. The message was clear: the US was distancing itself from the resolutions passed against Iran by the UN Security Council.
As if all that weren##t enough, Mr Obama dropped words such as “terror” and “terrorism” from his vocabulary. The killers of September 11 were “violent extremists”, not “Islamist terrorists”. In this respect, he is more politically correct than the Saudis and Egyptians, who have no qualms about describing those who kill in the name of Islam as terrorists.
Mr Obama may not know it, but his “Muslim world” is experiencing a civil war of ideas, in which movements for freedom and human rights are fighting despotic, fanatical and terrorist groups that use Islam as a fascist ideology. The President refused to acknowledge the existence of the two camps, let alone take sides. It was not surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood lauds him for “acknowledging the justice of our case” – nor that his speech was boycotted by the Egyptian democratic movement “Kifayah!” (“Enough!”), which said it could not endorse “a policy of support for despots in the name of fostering stability”.
In other words, the President may find that by trying to turn everyone into a friend, he has merely added to his list of enemies.
The Sunday Telegraph