Obama speaks to the Arabs, not the Muslim world in Cairo

Just some food for thought from Indonesia: Obama speaks to the Arabs, not the Muslim world

In raising the spectre of nuclear Iran, Obama committed the very sin which Americans have so jealously guarded against in public life: The infusion of religion into the body politic.

What does the issue of Iran’s nuclear program have to do with Islam?

Obama did the right thing in raising the plight of Palestinians, and his remarks will receive a heartfelt welcome. But the prism of pain by which Indonesia and others perceive the issue is not of Islamic solidarity but of decolonialization and injustice.

It is the same sympathy felt for people subjected around the world.

Obama did the right thing in raising the plight of Palestinians, and his remarks will receive a heartfelt welcome. But the prism of pain by which Indonesia and others perceive the issue is not of Islamic solidarity but of decolonialization and injustice.

Other scholars have noted that it is a bit offensive that people didn’t consider Obama’s speech in Turkey as an address to the Muslim world. That is ironic since modern day Turkey rose from the ashes of 5 centuries of the Ottoman empire, the world’s last Caliphate. So, just for a friendly reminder that the face of global Islam is far more divorce than people imagine it to be, I thought I’d share some stats from the Largest Muslim population centers:

1 Indonesia 182,570,000
2 Pakistan 134,480,000
3 India 121,000,000
4 Bangladesh 114,080,000
5 Turkey 65,510,000

6 Iran 62,430,000
7 Egypt 58,630,000
8 Nigeria 53,000,000
9 Algeria 30,530,000
10 Morocco 28,780,000

Indonesia alone represents 15% of the entire Muslim population. And this short list indicates that the face of global Islam has a lot of Asian features. Yet we do not look to Indonesia and Malaysia, as major Muslim centers, to understand the successes and challenges Muslims face in social and political life. Sadly, the reality is that Obama was addressing the imagination of many Muslims. Like this article indicates, many see Arab issues as Muslim issues, as opposed to the political struggles as largely secular issues. Our solutions to today’s problems, however, should be informed by and imbued with our religious ethics. At the same time, we often see Arab practices as normative Islamic practices. By doing so, we undermine our own agency in applying universal Islamic beliefs and practices in ways that address the cultural and social conditions in our own communities and societies. Insha’Allah more on that later.

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7 thoughts on “Obama speaks to the Arabs, not the Muslim world in Cairo

  1. Though I think the writer was a little hard on Obama’s speech as a whole, I agree that it was more directed politically towards the Arab world.

    I think that people didn’t consider the President’s speech in Turkey as speaking to Muslims, because it is viewed as a secular Muslim country, so it doesn’t fall into the same category as the other states.

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  2. Geez it’s about time somebody said it sister. I got some words from someone else on my inability to see the Muslim world as THE Muslim world. When I asked why hardly any ‘America Muslims’ praised Obama’s speech in Turkey no one had anything to say. And certainly Obama’s message wasn’t for say, Albanian Muslims, Muslims who’ve had very high regard for the US for a long time despite our own questionable leaders. Or what about the Bosnian Muslims? His speech nor the ‘Muslim world’ had any bearing on their situation but in my view, Bosnians’ struggle to rid extremism from their own land could have been used as an example of what Arab Muslims need to confront on their own. The other piece of idiocy that got my goat was that some magician convinced Obama and his writers that ‘American Muslims’ can’t, or have a hard time fulfilling their religious obligation of giving charity just because some rag-tag organizations with questionable dealings were shut down. So I see, ‘American Muslims’ are back to the same ideas of overlooking or minimizing all the suffering people within America’s borders. If Obama’s speeches are going to lead our brothers and sisters right back to pretentiousness, I don’t need to hear another one.

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  3. Politics wise, Indonesia and Malaysia are highly irreverent, due to their respective developments, both as modern countries and their original conversion to Islam.

    Since his speech was very much about politics, he had to be somewhere near the main muslim centers of power.(Egypt, KSA or Turkey)

    I think the reason he went with Egypt is because Bush did his speech in Istanbul.

    And i agree with the arab=/= muslim argument. I was hoping that he would of said something about the horrible conditions of prisoners in jails in central asia.

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  4. I think a lot of people forget that the majority of Muslims are non-Arabs. The stats you posted show this, and also show the diversity of Muslims.
    I agree with wandarful: Turkey has modeled itself as a secular country, and so maybe that’s why the speech wasn’t seen as a speech to all Muslims.

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  5. Your right on it this was a discussion on Pafica radio in NY on one of the shows.I myself had a problem with this notion when the muslim world as you,know covers a broad spectrum of people.This was a Middle East policy tour.

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