Obama in Cairo: A New Beginning

By Jim Wallis 06-09-2009

Every so often, I will begin the week with a post about something that I believe deserves further reflection and comment from the God's Politics community. This is one of those events, so I invite both our bloggers and readers to comment.

President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo intended to create a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based on mutual interest and mutual respect." And the good news is that he might have done exactly that. Especially since 9/11 that relationship has cycled downward into deep distrust, alarming negative symbolism, and a cycle of violence and counter-violence that threatened to spiral out of control. Obama said, "I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire."

Instead he suggested there were specific issues we must confront together: violent extremism in all of its forms, the rights and responsibilities of nations, the threat of nuclear weapons, democracy, religious tolerance and freedom, women's rights and, perhaps most importantly, the situation between Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab world. On the defining Israeli/Palestinian issue, President Obama was very clear in the unswerving position of the United States in regard to anti-Semitism and centuries of persecution of Jews, culminating in the Holocaust. He said, "Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction

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