Grading Obama’s speech

This is the substantive part of Obama’s speech (introductory language omitted), with my comments.  Overall, I’d give the speech a C.  He made some obvious points, he made some good points, and he made some idiotic and offensive points. It would be nice if his speech was effective in bringing about the positive things he mentioned, but I’m not optimistic.  It wasn’t a sufficiently intelligent, visionary speech to do that.  It was just a mixture of praise, platitudes, desires, and insults.


We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.  [I guess it’s good to open a speech by getting your audience to agree with you, so that they continue to agree with subsequent points.  Obama’s very first substantive paragraph begins with the Marxist notion that it’s all our fault.  That should get his audience nodding.]

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.  [This is a limited, but accurate statement.]

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.  [I’m having problems understanding what it means to have a relationship defined by our differences.  That fact alone doesn’t inevitably lead to murderous conflict.  It does only when what makes the other side difference is its murderous ideology.  So this is just silly blah, blah, but it sounds nice and doesn’t put the Muslim audience on the defensive.]

I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.  [In what la-la land does Obama live?  First, we’ve repeatedly fought on behalf of Muslims around the world, so Obama’s not inaugurating anything new.  Second, where in the whats-it does he get the idea that Islam shares with Western culture notions of “justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”  Islam is predicated on submission, a yearning for a return to the golden era of the 7th century, and, most significantly, the subjugation of half the population (that would be women), not to mention a scriptural mandate that all non-Muslims be destroyed or enslaved.  It’s one thing not to insult your audience.  It’s another thing to lie.]

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. [At least he’s got some connection to reality.] But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.  [I anxiously await Obama’s truth.]

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.  [It’s always about him, isn’t it?  But, again, good to establish a connection with your audience.]

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities — (applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)  [I won’t pick this apart.  Some of it is true, some of it is wishful thinking and historical revisionism.  I don’t think it matters too much.]

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library. (Applause.)  [Somewhat exaggerated in terms of the scope of Muslim contributions to America, but still basically true and, again, a smart thing to say to a Muslim audience.]

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)  [La-la land.]

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum — “Out of many, one.” [Very nice.]

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)  [More self-involvement, and more pander.  Also, I read the numbers in the CIA fact book to say America has fewer than 2,000,000 Muslims.  I’m lousy at math, though, so please help me here:  What’s 0.6% of 307,212,123? UPDATEI’m not the only one who found the math suspicious.]

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)  [This makes me uncomfortable.  It’s good to trumpet America’s religious freedom, but I find it icky that he would boast about the fact that America (rightly, I guess) allows its Muslim citizens to enshroud their women — and please note that this last is an applause line.]

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.  [For someone with a Muslim background, I think he’s a bit unclear on the whole submission and sharia and jihad and “other religions need to be destroyed” concepts that are an intregal part of the Koran.]

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. [I actually believe he — and his media sychophants — do believe that words alone are all it takes.]  These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.  [I know this is an example of his soaring rhetoric, but it leaves me cold.]

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes — and, yes, religions — subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)  [Good.]

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together. [He keeps saying that he’ll tell the truth and face the tension but, so far, he hasn’t done that.  I’m waiting….]

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.  [Good.  That’s clear and unequivocal.]

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I’m aware that there’s still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. [Grammar my dear “brilliant” President.  (I was told the other night at a comedy club that he’s brilliant.)  What he meant to say was “there are still some….”] But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. [Grammar:  he’s talking about Al Qaeda as an entity, not a collection of individuals.  It should be “states its determination….”  Normally I wouldn’t be so fussy but Obama is, after all, brilliant.]  They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.  [Substantive content of this paragraph:  Okay, and at least he didn’t pretend to agree with the Truthers about the real responsibility for 9/11.]

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there. [That would be George Bush’s policy.] It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.  [Good.]

And that’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) [Obama is either prevaricating or he genuinely misunderstands what the Koran defines as innocent.  Indeed, given the verse immediately following, one has to suspect that Obama, the “Holy” Koran follower, is speaking in code.  Also, why is he calling it the “Holy” Koran.  Barring some parity at the end of the speech where he says “Holy” Bible, he’s never before used the “Holy” Bible formulation.  Takes pandering too far.]  And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace. [Okay, don’t insult your audience.  Get them to work with you, not against you.  Islam is the problem, but Islam also has to work on the solution, so a little praise here is probably a good thing.]

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who’ve been displaced. That’s why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.  [Where in the world is all this money coming from?  We’re broke.]

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) [Splendid waffle there.]  Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future — and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. [Wouldn’t that be George Bush’s policy?]  And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people — (applause) — I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. [And yes, George Bush’s policy again.]  And that’s why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. [Which is a result of George Bush’s surge and a (smart) repudiation of his campaign promise to have troops out in 100 days.]  That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) [This would, again, be Bush, not “campaign Obama” speaking.] We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)  [Whatever.  He’s going to outsource torture and he’s going to build a new, identical facility, give it a brand new name, and do the same old, same old.]

So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.  [Good.]

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.  [Because Jews are pathetic they deserve their own country?  Feh.  At least he’s reiterated support, even those his actions lately belie that.]

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. [Good for him for saying that.]  Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.  [Good again.]

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. [Excuse me? Is he implying Jews have persecuted Arab Christians?  This is a whopper.  It’s the Muslims who have persecuted Christians, and have finally succeeded in almost completely de-Christianizing Bethlehem for the first time since Christ himself.]  For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)  [This is an unconscionable paragraph, that completely ignores the actual history of the regime.  It ignores the 1924 mandate that gave Jordan to the Palestinian people.  It ignores the fact that, in 1948, the Arabs attached the tiny new Jewish nation, willingly abandoning their own villages to make room for war.  It ignores the fact that Arabs have been in a perpetual state of war against Israel since 1948.  It ignores the fact that surrounding Arab nations have intentionally kept the Palestinian refugees in those territories as a running sore.  It ignores the fact that Israel (a) offered to hand over 97% of the territories but was refused and (b) handed over Gaza, to no result.  Yes, the Palestinians are a problem, but to imply that it’s all Israel’s fault is the kind of big lie Goebbels would have loved.]

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding [historical revisionism:  it’s not the displacement.  The displacement is a symbol for the world to writhe about.  The problem is the existence of a Jewish nation in violation of the commandments in the peace and equality loving “Holy” Koran], and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. [“Hostility and attacks” seems like an awfully bland formulation considering the Palestinians oft-repeated desire to commit complete genocide against the Israelis.]  But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)  [Yeah, but what’s that mean?]

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) [Yes.  Another American president grabs the Middle Eastern tar baby.]  The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.  [A point is appropriate, but I don’t get the black analogy in this context, because it would mean he’s saying Palestinians are slaves to the Jews — and he couldn’t be saying that, could he?]

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.  [Does he really not understand that Hamas’ sole raison d’etre is to destroy Israel?  I’m not imagining this.  Hamas leaders say it all the time.  Governing is just a time-waster.]

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)  [It does not violate previous agreements.  It’s always been understood that Israel can maintain normal growth on old settlements.  This is a cruel slap, and Obama is not winning Jewish love for this one.]

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.  [He doesn’t seem to understand that, until the killing stops, Israel cannot take away the barriers to Palestinians earning their livings.  Anyway, the Palestinians don’t really want that.  If Israel gives them access to the livelihoods they demand the overwhelming flow of cash money from the West stops, and that’s worth more than a few jobs.]

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.  [That needed to be said, and he gets kudos for saying it.]

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.  [Meaningless.  Not quite straw men, but close.]

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, [Muslims, whenever they mention Muhammad, add “peace be upon him.”  Is Obama a Muslim?] joined in prayer. (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It’s about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.  [Is it me, or has he said absolutely nothing at all here?]

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I’m hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.  [One word:  idiot.  No, two words:  delusional idiot.  No, six words:  America-hating, Israel-hating Leftist anarchist.]

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)

I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)  [So, after saying he’d never impose democracy on other people, he then goes on to say that people must govern themselves, which is Democracy.  He talks like a bad lawyer.  His ultimate principle, too, is right out of the Bush playbook.]

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.  [Is he listening to himself?  ACORN, attempts to stifle talk radio, increased American media control, government ownership of industry, etc. — these are all tools Obama uses to destroy Americans’ control over their own destiny.  I think the word “hypocrite” applies well here.]

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) [It takes one to know one.]  So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. [Uh, no.  About 800 years ago, Islam had a brief, shining moment during which it elevated some smart Jews to prominence.  It’s had a few other moments of tolerance when it’s in control, although that’s usually because there’s been a secular government in a country with an Islamic population (Indonesia and Turkey spring to mind).  Otherwise, throughout its history, it’s been strikingly intolerant of other religions.  Jihad means bringing Islam by the sword.  With respect to other religions it kills, enslaves, taxes, confines, etc.  What is he talking about?  Is this his version of “truth”?]  We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.  [Have we not been honest before, Obama?]

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, 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 working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.  [I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I do know that America has been cracking down on Muslim charities that are fronts for terrorism.  Is that what he’s talking about?]

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can’t disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.  [Obama doesn’t understand that the clothes Muslim women wear are products of tradition, not religious doctrine.  The former gets less respect than the latter.  For example, if women want to cling to the clothing tradition, then they have to give up the right to drive, because the state should not be forced to take pictures of a bunch of rags with eye slits for driver’s licenses.  And again, I find it very disturbing that his example of Muslim religious freedom is to harp on an Arab tradition of subjugating women.]

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that’s why we’re forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That’s why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know — and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.  [There he goes again with the hijab.  Maybe it’s freudian, and he wishes he could shut Michelle down.]

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.  [To equate feminazi demands for equal pay for comparable jobs to women stoned to death for adultery is cheap.]

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I 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. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)  [Good.]

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations — including America — this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith. [Fine.]

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.  [Aside from the fact-free pander, fine.]

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century — (applause) — and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I’m emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.  [Fine.]

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.  [I’m not sure what to think of this.  After 9/11, I’m not thrilled about inviting Muslims into the country.  I’d make it conditional on their being forced to engage in some cross-cultural activities (such as going to churches and synagogues, to grow beyond their blind prejudices, and I’d bar them from attending radical mosques.]

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.  [Considering that sharia law bars paying interest on money, I don’t see a benefit to American businesses to get involved in investing in sharia economies — but what do I know?]

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We’ll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I’m announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.  [Where’s the money coming for this?]

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.  [We are?  Ready, that is.]

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.  [Words, words, words.  Pretty, but neither soaring nor visionary.]

I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country — you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.  [Ditto.]

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Applause.)  [Here’s that unusual “Holy” Bible reference.]

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. [Normally, Americans say “May God bless you.”  What’s interesting about this phrase is how it echoes the fact, which I appointed out above, that Muslims, whenever they mention Muhammad, add “peace be upon him.”  Didn’t Obama think anyone would notice this parallelism?] Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

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  • Huan

    another speech …

    what will be the action?

    [crickets chirping]

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  • Deana

    Good job, Bookworm.

    I don’t have much time to comment right now but on your last point about Obama saying, “And may God’s peace be upon you,” – of course Obama and his speech writers knew people would notice this parallelism. The Muslims would and many here in America will as well. We can be sure that Obama’s supporters will use it as further “evidence” that he is the most sophisticated and culturally-aware speaker in America’s history.


  • Oldflyer

    How much red ink do you need to expend before it becomes a failing grade?

    Kidding you Book; but many commentators have said things such as the speech had some good points, it was better than expected, etc. I think the bar must be set pretty low.

    The very fact that he went to Cairo, Egypt and mouthed this garbage warrants a failing grade as a President. Cairo comes as close as any place, not named Pyongyang, Tehran, or Riyadh, to qualify as the Capitol of a tyrannical regime. Can you imagine Abdullah or any other Muslim despot “reaching out” to Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or Atheists in a speech delivered in any capitol?

    My wife just read something that said that the part of the brain that generates worry is a lot smaller in men than it is in women. That part of my brain must be experiencing exponential growth since this charlatan became the Leader of the (temporarily) Free World. I am becoming a major worrier.

  • Allen

    I tuned out many of the details but I did notice a general gist of the speech. I got the feeling that Obama sees himself as the manifest will of the American people. I also noticed that he feels completely at ease volunteering other peoples’ time and money.

  • Oldflyer

    I got carried away and lost one of my original thoughts about this outreach stuff.

    If he really wanted to improve relations between the U.S. and Muslims, the way to do it would be to have a number of influential American and other western Muslims (I can’t think of one) make major speeches in highly visible forums. These speech should emphasize how Muslims in America and in other western countries live in freedom and prosper. Once this were a matter of record, then the “O” could get his time in the spotlight and use it as a springboard to speak of mutual respect, etc.

    I know I am fantasizing; but I believe that would be the process if it were a genuine effort.


    Just thought a view of someone, who lives in Egypt, would “color” the speech in a special light.

    Warning: Tons of spelling errors, foul language but some of the commentary was quite amusing and on target. Don’t miss the Cindy, Code Pink, Sheehan photo op – revolting.

    Overall, I am fed up with the Arab view that the cornerstone for peace with them is focused on Israel. They have yet to make peace within their own societies (Shi’ite vs Sunni) and yet feel no compunction to address the ills internally. Always easier to point the finger elsewhere and cast blame and responsibility onto someone else.

    Now, we have ‘O’ who will feed this inane mentality and in no flat, we’ll have another czar…this one will be in charge of getting a kid in Kansas to communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo. KANSAS! … was this a reference to another ancestral home of his (I think his grandparents) – he’ll pander in any direction. What was the tag line of Malcolm X …By any means necessary.

    I’d just love to see the chat between, let’s say: Memphis, Tenn. and Memphis, Egypt.

  • BrianE

    I think it is obvious that nothing will change in the ME as a result of Obama’s speech. He said as much.
    The speech may have a far greater effect here, since it will give the Obama administration cover as they play hardball with Israel– they will play this against the vague proscriptions directed at the Palestinians.
    What is needed is a meaningful benchmark to gauge to what extent Muslims are willing to meet us halfway in our journey to detente.
    As I said previously, my benchmark is Saudi Arabia opening its border to Christians and the Bible.
    I read somewhere that Michelle didn’t travel with her President husband, since he as a Muslim (since his father and step-father were Muslims, and by Muslim tradition he is automatically a Muslim) can’t bring a non-muslim spouse to a country ruled by sharia. I know he doesn’t consider himself a muslim, but he has acknowledged that his natural father was a muslim, though he also says he was an agnostic or atheist.
    I’m not bringing this up to fan the flames of Obama is a Closet Muslim conspiracy, but even if he consider himself a muslim, would he respect sharia law?
    Having said that, a co-worker of mine, a Muslim who has been in this country since 1985 has recently had to struggle with his daughter becoming engaged to a non-muslim. According to Abdalla, it is OK for a muslim man to marry a non-muslim woman, but it is forbidden for a muslim woman to marry a non-muslim man. He has reconciled himself to this (the wedding is this month), but he said he will be effectively disowned by his family who lives in Jordan, since as her father he allowed this to happen.
    I guess this story suggests that Obama would be allowed to bring a non-muslim spouse to a sharia practicing country.
    Obama already has demonstrated a propensity to speak as a moderate, while his actions are more radical, but I am more concerned about his relationship with the Saudi monarch. Prior to his speech in Cairo, he fawned over King Abdullah. I think his attitude is demeaning for an American President (unless it produces more oil, in which case Obama will have continued to demonstrate his similarities to Bush).
    Saudi Arabia is a respressive regime that has made a deal with the devil by allowing radicalism to be exported from the country.

  • Oldflyer

    BrianE, I don’t believe he has the faintest idea of the manner in which an American President should act.

    I had predicted that MO would not be in Saudi Arabia or Cairo. I am sure she is taking a separate jet to meet him for the festivities in Europe. What carbon footprint? I did not know about the provision in Sharia law that you cited, but just figured she would refuse because she would have to wear sleeves and would be treated as a second class human.

    Noted that in the picture circulating yesterday that Valerie Jarrett was approaching to greet King Abdullah bare headed. Doesn’t seem like a good way to impress Muslims. The Lefties applauded her because in contrast to Laura Bush she was asserting her American independence. Laura wore a head scarf and was criticized by the hypocrites who don’t understand that it is only courtesy to observe your host’s customs if it does not compromise your principles. When visiting Catholic Churches in Europe my wife wore a head covering; she also did when touring mosques in Istanbul. Courtesy.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    The most worrisome thing about the speech is the pass given to Iran. However, David Horowitz, a person who’s opinions I greatly respect, actually has a positive take on the speech…once you cut through the dreck…er, pandering (see: It’s also clear that Al Qaeda is worried about the speech’s impact, given its pre-speech PR efforts. So, although I have me doubts, laddies and lassies, perhaps I will sit back a spell on this issue and see what happens. Time will tell.

  • Ymarsakar

    Okay. Now you need to cleanse yourself, Book. Take deep breaths.

  • BrianE

    The president addressed – surprisingly briefly – the issue of the rights of women in the Islamic world. This is not a small issue, now that the Islamic world extends into Europe and America. Women in cities like London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo face mounting threats not only to their freedom, but even to their physical safety, from men who deploy violence in the name of Islam. Nor is it only Muslim-born women at risk.

    Now listen to the president:

    I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.

    But it is not only “some in the West” who take this view! It is many Muslim-born women themselves, some of whom live in the West – but others of whom live in Muslim-majority countries. What on earth is an American president doing taking sides on this internal question of Islamic practice?

    What’s next – a speech in Jerusalem where the president says, “I reject the view of some in the West that chicken is not a ‘meat’ for kosher purposes?” A speech in Vatican City where the president endorses clerical celibacy?

    Such interventions within Judaism and Christianity would obviously be unthinkable. Yet here is an American president intervening in an internal Muslim debate – and not only intervening, but intervening on the more reactionary side!

    This is part of an analysis by David Frum here:

    I’m sure I will differ from Frum on lots of things, but his entire analysis of the Obama speech is worth considering.

    The attitude about the hajib, in my estimation, is symbolic of the larger issue of what right or obligation does a liberal society have in determining or meddling in the practice of faith? On one hand secularists are becoming increasingly comfortable dictating what is appropriate practice for religious people. On the other hand, how does this possibly reconcile with the concept of individual liberty?
    I’m afraid I know the answer to that one. The liberal, of course, has no conflict with that, since they are comfortable with the concept of freedom– as long as it comports with their views.

    We drove the Taliban, and with them Arab jihadists, out of Afghanistan and are attempting to replace their concepts of society with one that is closer to ours. (Not sure how that’s working out given the death sentence given to an Afghan citizen for converting to Christianity– or the recent destruction of Bibles translated into a local language by our military. These certainly seem to be antithetical to our concepts of liberty.
    It seems that we have replaced horrible despots with merely ugly despots. I had serious reservations about our incursion into Iraq, and found myself supporting it because 1. it was a republican president that made the decision and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he had information not available to the average person; and 2. I thought the strategic position of American troops and a government sympathetic to the US would be a good thing when a Saudi regime eventually becomes hostile to the US.

    Obama backed away from promotion of democracy—but still retains the concept of some level of individual autonomy in the mix of governance.
    They say that insanity is repeating the same action expecting different results. Maybe it’s time for us to pull back from our insanity.
    You can have all the “free” elections you want, but when black-booted thugs stand in your way to the polling booth, the results can be predicted without need to count the ballots. The Black Panther thugs in the most recent election serve to symbolically remind us of that Islam stands firmly in the way to any sense of democracy as we know it for Muslims.
    There is nothing in the tradition or history of Muslims that would lead to the type of liberal democracies we perceive as normal. Leave aside the Muslim jihadists, the two countries touted as beacons of democracy in the Muslim world, Turkey and Indonesia, are rife with religious persecution and the only reason Turkey hasn’t slipped into the morass of sharia up until now doesn’t mean it isn’t at the precipice.
    At best, a benign dictatorship is the best that can be hoped for in Muslim countries—benign in the sense that the dictatorship understands the value to it and it’s people to refrain from the excesses of Muslimism.
    My co-worker, Abdalla, have had heated discussion over the years about our Iraq incursion, American hegemony, complicity of Mossad in 9/11, the propaganda that represents the American press (we have reached limited agreement on that one, though at the core of his cynicism always lays a Jewish conspiracy).
    Abdalla is an American citizen, is married to an American non-Muslim and in my mind is a “moderate” Muslim. And while Abdalla would never support the institution of sharia in America, like all good Muslims he would be powerless to prevent it and his objections would never rise above lip service.
    Now drawing conclusions from anecdotal evidence is always dangerous.
    I think the pervasive fatalism at the core of Islam, far greater than any fatalism of the most fundamentalist Christian sect that prevents a Muslim from fully embracing the philosophy of Western civilization.
    This is the long way of saying that we are wasting our time converting Afghans to secular liberalism. Now matter how much secularists wish to ignore the inevitable, this is a clash of civilizations—Western liberalism vs. Islam.

    By the way BW, thanks for your analysis of Obama’s speech.

  • David Foster

    Oldflyer…”that the part of the brain that generates worry is a lot smaller in men than it is in women”…maybe it’s larger for pilots (surviving ones, at least) also…if so, you already have the requisite equipment for your Obama-worrying.

  • suek

    >>The attitude about the hajib, in my estimation, is symbolic of the larger issue of what right or obligation does a liberal society have in determining or meddling in the practice of faith?>>

    Short answer…none. “Liberal” society as opposed to what other kind of society?

    Except that’s a bogus issue. At least in this context.

    Obama says:

    “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.”

    Will you find a single reference for me anywhere that indicates _anybody_ in Europe, Great Britain, Canada or the United States that in any way connects a woman’s equality with the hijab?

    There has been an issue with the burqa, but only from the standpoint that completely covering the face interferes with identification of the wearer. Requiring it to be removed for photo ids is a legal issue.

    After all, Catholic nuns wore – and some still wear – habits that cover their hair (which probably derived from the middle east in past times) as well as being full length and covering the limbs entirely in the United States as well as all other western nations up until Vatican II – 1972?

    Hey…remember Gidget as “The Flying Nun”?

    In other words…strawman argument.


    My co-worker, Abdalla, have had heated discussion over the years about our Iraq incursion, American hegemony, complicity of Mossad in 9/11, the propaganda that represents the American press (we have reached limited agreement on that one, though at the core of his cynicism always lays a Jewish conspiracy).
    Abdalla is an American citizen, is married to an American non-Muslim and in my mind is a “moderate” Muslim. And while Abdalla would never support the institution of sharia in America, like all good Muslims he would be powerless to prevent it and his objections would never rise above lip service.

    If Abdalla is a moderate, who clings to the Mossad/Jewish conspiracy theory, there is little hope of turning around the so-called moderates, who have not lived in American for 20 or 30 years. In fact, all he does offer is ‘lip service’ and does in deed, by his silence, support sharia. Does he actually expect non-Muslims to change the rules so that he can live with himself. Like all struggles, it is an internal one that would be best resolved by the believers.

    This is a perfect portrait of how Islam is stagnant and stilted on so many levels. Christianity went through growing pains and sprouted into many different views and practices while still keeping the flock Christian. Judaism during the 20th century gave birth to the Conservative and Reform movements, which bent customs/rules to accommodate the changes in society to still allow one to feel attached to the faith.

    Although there may be some in both faiths, who are not happy or comfortable with the adaptations, they have not engaged in holy wars lately to make their point. Somewhere along the time line, each group has found it niche, it’s neighborhood, it’s journey into the 20th and 21st century.

    This is not only a clash of civilizations, this is a clash between the 7th century and the 21st. The greater danger now, is that there are nuclear capabilities in the hands of a 7th century mentality, who have no interest in the 21st century. They are not seeking ‘hope and change’ to quote a politician – they seek to arrest both.

    Finally, in my mind Abdella, is a threat. Maybe not one, wearing a suicide vest, but one who while he immigrated to America, is not invested (not meant to be a pun) in American ideals and still clings to the tribal mentality. I am sitting here wondering why he packed his bags and came here.

  • suek

    >>I am sitting here wondering why he packed his bags and came here.>>

    He thought he could have his cake and eat it too.

    He thought that he could grab the golden ring without paying for the privilege.

    It doesn’t work that way.

    I’m not big on the Hobbit story…but it’s a little like the power of the ring…when it was used to disappear, the person gave up a bit of himself. Eventually he lost more and more of his soul until he he became Gollum. If a person yields to the temptation of some desire within him, it diminishes him. Eventually he becomes something other than who he was. We all think we can toy with that which we know is wrong, but when we do, we lose some of what we were – even if we don’t think so. Abdella thought he could share in the wealth of the US without compromising his muslim faith. He couldn’t. The problem isn’t entirely the change in his faith, it’s the change in his perception of his faith. He has to decide if he’s American or muslim…he thinks he can be both. I’m not sure that’s possible.


    I am not familiar with the Hobbit, but I am familiar with the golem (which seems to me a variation of Gollum in the Hobbit reference.

    The word golem is used in the Bible to refer to an embryonic or incomplete substance. Similarly, golems are often used today in metaphor either as brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but hostile to him in others. Similarly, it is a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow.

  • BrianE

    I think Abdalla is a product of his indoctrination as a youth. He came to the US when he was about 20, but in our conversations he still believes that he is privy to “truth” and we (the US at large) are fed from the government and media trough.
    I will say he has softened is stance in the last year or so– there was a time when he thought Bush should be imprisoned for Iraq, but something has changed his perspective (could it be 5 months of Obama?).
    As I said earlier his daughter is marrying a non-Muslim and this is huge. He had several options 1. disowning his daughter; 2. having his daughter killed (I am not implying he ever would have thought about this option, he wouldn’t); 3. accepting her choice and making the best of it.
    It wasn’t easy for him, but he chose 3. I think this was a difficult decision for him.
    Abdalla is not a closet jihadist, he joined the Air Force soon after he became a citizen.
    Abdalla makes no requirements at work to accommodate his religion, so I don’t want to paint him as a radical. In fact you would never know he’s a Muslim without a long conversation.

    “If Abdalla is a moderate, who clings to the Mossad/Jewish conspiracy theory, there is little hope of turning around the so-called moderates, who have not lived in American for 20 or 30 years.” – Sadie

    I said there is a danger to drawing a conclusion from anecdotes, but yes, if you’ve spent your life being indoctrinated to a certain position, you’re probably going to assimilate some of that producing some slightly skewed POV. While is family now lives in Jordan, he was raised in Kuwait (and has nothing good to say about Kuwaitis). From his viewpoint the Zionists stole his land. (Which is not that much different than many Americans on the left, I might add).

    This is just my opinion—yeah, it will be hard for Muslims to ever fully embrace American culture (especially as it is practiced now—and I’m think specifically of Hollywood).

    There’s a disconnect going on—he was glad to see Saddam overthrown, but he was totally against the Iraqi war. I guess in some respects Muslims are like the left—they refuse to accept reality as it really is, and prefers to live in a fantasyland where a despot can be overthrown, but no violence occurs in the process.


    “I will say he has softened is stance in the last year or so– there was a time when he thought Bush should be imprisoned for Iraq, but something has changed his perspective (could it be 5 months of Obama?).”

    Nope..probably because he’s going with option 3.

    “From his viewpoint the Zionists stole his land” –

    Sounds like he’s a Palestinian and if his family lived in Kuwait and now in Jordan, he’s really in a twisted knot. Firstly, the Kuwaitis do not want, like nor respect the Palis nor do they in Lebanon for that matter. In fact, I cannot think of one Arab country that said, ‘come here, we’ll make a place for you” – quite the opposite. Only Jordan (the former Trans-Jordan) is where they have lived without hassle. I won’t bother to go into the historical context of Palestine/Palestinian. I’d say his indoctrination did not end with his one-way ticket to America if his family is still in the M.E.

    We all get some type of indoctrination or transfer of values, faith whatever you want to call it. Then we become adults and we try to sift through it all and make an executive decision for ourselves. Abdulla straddles the days of his youth, which are fewer in number now from his days as an adult in America. His anecdotes are more than a passing remark, they are his belief system – he is privy to “truth” which makes the rest of what…less than truthful, liars and thieves because his land was stolen and exactly who told him this?

    The scarier part is that he served in the military (really?). I’d like to see his discharge papers.

    It is not fantasy land where the Abdullas of the world reside, it is the 7th century, which I guess is a suburb of their minds.

  • BrianE

    You’re right, he has said his family is Palestinian.
    Very astute, He was separated from the AF after serving a short time, I think it was less than a year. I don’t think it was dishonorable- I guess the military has separations for a variety of reasons. My point in mentioning his joining was to highlight that he was trying to do what was expected of him. I occasionally run into a couple of the teachers at the local community college. If I had to pick who was a greater danger to traditional American values, the teachers win hands down.
    Addulla’s been pretty subdued, and after some knock-down drag out discussions over the past couple of years, we learned to avoid political discussions. He only recently told me about his daughter.
    I haven’t talked to him for a month- I’m the latest victim of the recession. The manufacturing plant I worked in, which employed over 1,000 last July is down to about 300 people. The engineering department missed the first three RIF’s, but not the last one.
    I also agree I think it’s his daughter that has forced him to re-evaluate some of his beliefs.

  • Ymarsakar

    This is the long way of saying that we are wasting our time converting Afghans to secular liberalism.

    We aren’t at that phase yet. That phase comes when the decadence comes, and the decadence comes when security and prosperity are the rule in Afghanistan. Until then, you will continue to have a stringent need for military power, which will always hold back “secular liberalism” because military power has never been based on 1. secularism and 2. liberalism.

  • suek


    Interesting about the meaning of golem. You’re probably right in that that was probably the source of the name. The hobbits are a race of man-like creatures in the trilogy “Lord of the Rings”. They’re the “good guys” among all sorts of bad guys and sorta good guys.
    ( if you want more info)

    Gollum was the original possessor of the ring, but became so degraded by its use that he became the dispicable repellent creature of the story who is also treacherous, since he seems to offer his help, but actually his sole concern is to reacquire the ring. You know… as I remember, the only thing the ring does is make it’s wearer invisible, so I must have missed something in my reading. That hardly seems like a totally corrupting power. But it’s been a while.
    Tolkien seems to have written it as a children’s book, so use of actual corruption would have been difficult – lust would have been inappropriate and lust for power would probably have been incomprehensible to children. Still, the idea of personifying dehumanization as the truly repellent character of Gollum and developing the idea that Frodo could use the power of the ring and by doing so become like Gollum was a powerful one to get the idea of corruption across to children.

  • Ymarsakar

    You know… as I remember, the only thing the ring does is make it’s wearer invisible, so I must have missed something in my reading.

    Only Sauron can use the Ring’s full power. I believe one of the Elves used the ring to wash away the Nazul and Celeborn used it to destroy the gates of an orc fortress.

    The ring is semi-sentient, so it promises power to the bearer in hopes of getting that bearer nearer to Sauron. For, after all, the bearer thinks that he will be the one that gets the ring, but in reality, he is nothing but a tool, an expendable tool used to carry the ring to its true owner.



    Could I make the analogy that Arlen Spector is a Gollum. It seems to me that post election (and the power of the Republicans having been degraded) that he opted to switch parties in the hope of reacquiring the ring as a Democrat?


  • suek

    Heh. He definitely reached for the gold ring…and chances seem good – to me, anyway – that he may have reached out too far and may fall off his high horse. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy…!

    >>The ring is semi-sentient, so it promises power to the bearer…>>

    That would explain some of it…it’s not what it _does_, it’s what its promises make the bearer _think_ it can do – which effectively makes its potential seem unlimited.

    We read the books to the kids, but when the movie came out, I found the Gollum so repellent that I have trouble watching it. That’s odd, but still a fact.



    “We read the books to the kids, but when the movie came out, I found the Gollum so repellent that I have trouble watching it. That’s odd, but still a fact.”

    Not really, when we read we imagine what we can tolerate.

    “it’s what its promises make the bearer think it can do – which effectively makes its potential seem unlimited.”

    Oh…I see, it’s like giving a 90 year old Viagra or make a 79 year old politician think he can grab the brass ring on the merry-go-round on his high horse.

  • Charles Martel

    I remember reading comments by some critic—maybe Neal Postman?—about how modern culture attempts to present an eternal climax, and tries to get there quickly as possible.

    For example, when Whitney Houston sang “I Will Always Love You,” she wasted no time in reaching and sustaining climax phrasing and volume. Her version was an extended end point, designed to reward us over and over with a rush of emotion.

    Hers was the first take on the song I ever heard. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I listened to Dolly Parton’s original version. What a contrast! Dolly starts out slow and pensive, setting up her reasons for a heart-rending goodbye, then climaxes with a deeply felt and expressed—not yelled—declaration of eternal love.

    What a treat to be led so slowly and expertly to the pay-off instead of being jerked too quickly along by a singer’s need to show her chops and ingratiate me with a cheap reward.

    Obama is like Whitney Houston. He thinks everything he says has to be uplifting, compelling and memorable. The problem for him is that nothing he says is memorable in terms of substance. Rather it’s the performance that’s memorable. In many ways he’s like Bill Clinton, who never said one memorable thing (unless it was in reference to fellatio). I don’t think any of Obama’s ass kissers can remember and quote anything he has specifically said.

    (In another way, Oabama’s speeches are like the stuff that Andrew Lloyd Webber churns out on Broadway. You can count on one hand the number of his tunes that you walked out of the theater humming to yourself. The music seems good at the time but does nothing more than leave a faint impression.)

    People are starting to tune out Obama. He’s becoming like the cheerleader at a football game your school is losing 73-0 who keeps yelling, “DEE-fense! DEE-fense!”

    Yeah, that’s the ticket.



    “I don’t think any of Obama’s ass kissers can remember and quote anything he has specifically said.”

    Not without a teleprompter they won’t.

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