Friday, June 04, 2010

Muslims Worldwide Disappointed in "The One"

[A year after Obama's Cairo speech], many Muslims in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East say they're dismayed that the promise of the speech has fizzled into U.S. policy-as-usual toward the region: civilian deaths in Afghanistan, an unstable Iraq, no pressure for reforms on Washington-friendly autocrats, no resolution for Guantanamo prisoners and no end in sight for the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

UPDATE 6/17/10: Pew Research poll finds Muslim nations hold an overwhelmingly negative view of the U.S.

UPDATE 6/7/10: Obama Has Yet to Connect with American Muslims

-- From "Muslim praise for Obama dries up a year after Cairo speech" by Miret el Naggar and Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers 6/3/10

A year ago Friday, President Barack Obama stood in Cairo and vowed "a new beginning" in a speech about how he'd change U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Egyptian vendors sold T-shirts portraying Obama in King Tut regalia, and Muslims throughout the region thrilled at his middle name: Hussein.

Israel's deadly raid in international waters on an aid flotilla en route to break the siege on Gaza - and Obama's tepid response, in comparison to the condemnation of other world leaders - cemented perceptions for many of unconditional U.S. support for Israel. Some Arab commentators and bloggers said Obama no longer deserves his Nobel Peace Prize.

Gallup surveys conducted between February and April of this year showed a dramatic decline in Arab countries' approval ratings of the U.S. administration. In Egypt, where he delivered the speech, the poll showed that Obama's popularity dropped by 18 percentage points. While some Middle Easterners said it was unfair to judge the president so early on issues that have persisted for decades, others said they definitely expected more in the year since his oratory olive branch to Muslims.

Consulates and U.S. embassies in various countries held roundtables for months after the Cairo speech and forwarded input through the State Department. The White House's Office of Public Engagement has sought input from American Muslims. The administration monitors overseas press and international polling.

The centerpiece of Muslim grievances remains the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was exacerbated by Israel's continued construction of settlements on Palestinian lands, a key obstacle for progress on peace negotiations.

The administration also continues to support the autocratic rulers in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf countries, a fact widely noted by Arab commentators. In Central Asia, U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have killed Muslim civilians, drumming up support for militants.

In Cairo , Obama pledged "to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear." But many Muslims abroad feel that religious discrimination persists. Even the crowning of a Miss USA of Muslim and Arab descent - at first cheered on by fans in the Middle East - turned sour when the beauty queen was accused of having ties to the Hezbollah militant group.

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